By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
A local transportation agency has awarded Sharpsville a grant to study the feasibility of building a railroad siding on the former Shenango Inc. property.
Property owner Patrick Zoccole said he has been looking into building a siding since 2007, and interest from companies in possibly locating at the site has been high.
Local supporters believe the site could attract gas- and oil-drilling companies, but many other industries also might find it an ideal location.
“We don’t know where this train is going to take us,” said Borough Manager Kenneth P. Robertson, with his tongue in his cheek. “We want to be a part of it.”
Mercer County Metropolitan Planning Organization on Tuesday awarded a mix of federal and state funds totaling $9,053 for the study. The borough will pay $787.
The borough’s engineer, Mourice Waltz Planners and Consultants, Sharpsville, and Paul Jannotti of Jannotti Rail Consultants, Warren, Pa., will conduct the study.
Zoccole has spent more than $100,000 mapping and surveying the site and performing other work related to preparing for a siding, all of which will be used in the study, Waltz said.
The study will look at the possible location for the siding, estimated construction cost, the impact on the neighborhood and the environment and economic development potential.
If built, the main siding would span about 2è miles next to the Norfolk Southern rail line, accommodating up to 70 cars. Norfolk Southern would not own it.
Pennsylvania has a “shortage” of rail sidings, said Zoccole, who runs three companies from the site: Zoccole Development, which owns 15 acres; DSF Slag, which owns 50 acres; and Zoccole Holdings, which manages the property.
Zoccole said the potential of the site just to serve the oil and gas industry is unlimited as the area sits on a huge “wet gas” deposit.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “The first section of paragraph in the whole book on the oil and gas industry hasn’t been written here.”
Zoccole added he also has talked with firms in the environmental, engineering, wastewater, aggregate and paving industries about his 65-acre property along the Shenango River.
Waltz noted that some industries are not compatible, and the study will look at commodity separation and having a short second siding for individual cars.
Zoccole started mining the slag from a century of iron producers to create aggregate to sell to PennDOT, and has since expanded into concrete, asphalt, granite and wood chip recycling.
He said he appreciates the borough’s efforts – including holding a meeting in November with local businesses which could benefit from development of the site – and noted he already has good relationships with PennDOT and the state Department of Environmental Protection, which has regulatory oversight of his property.
“It’s going to take all of us to get things done,” he said.
Waltz said he wants to complete the study as soon as possible, and that it could help secure construction funding.