Port Authority completes railroad sale

LISBON – The Columbiana County Port Authority’s railroad has finally been sold. Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake reported Thursday that the deal with Mule Sidetracks LLC to purchase the railroad for $3 million has been concluded.

Mule Sidetracks is a subsidiary of MarkWest Energy Partners, a leading provider of midstream services in the natural gas industry. The company constructed the natural gas transportation and fractionization plant near Scio in Harrison County that receives gas from the collection and processing plant built near Kensington. The cost of the two projects came to nearly $1 billion.

“The Port Authority acquired the railroad over 10 years ago to preserve it as a transportation asset that would help facilitate economic development in the region. We transfer it now to MarkWest with the knowledge that they have the financial strength to ensure its continued viability and in the hope that they’ll locate a processing plant along the line in Columbiana County,” Drake said, in a news release.

The Port Authority retained the mineral rights for the land, which have already been leased to Chesapeake Exploration.

The Port Authority and Mule Sidetracks reached an agreement in September that required the company to close on the sale by the end of October, the closing was delayed for four months while some minor issues were resolved. This was the third or fourth attempt by the Port Authority to sell the railroad since acquiring it more than 10 years ago.

The 36-mile former Youngstown & Southern Railroad extends from Mahoning County to Darlington in Beaver County, Pa., with the majority of it running through Columbiana County by way of Columbiana, Rogers and Negley.

As part of the deal, the Youngstown & Southern Railroad Co. will continue to operate the railroad under the existing operating lease agreement and pay the Port Authority $25 for every rail car of freight hauled on the line in excess of 1,000 carloads per year. The agreement ends in 2024 or when YSR has paid the Port Authority $350,000, whichever comes first.