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Steven J. King, managing director of the Quonset Development Corporation, speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Mill Creek Rail Yard in the Quonset Business Park on Oct. 8.

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — While the proposed Mill Creek Rail Yard at Quonset Business Park will benefit the state, it is also an economic benefit to the town that now receives millions of dollars in direct revenue from companies in the park, said top town officials.

The Quonset Development Corporation (QDC) recently broke ground for the rail yard that will accommodate the storage of up to 58 rail cars by constructing two sidings totaling 5,700 linear feet of track with six turnouts to help bolster commerce among businesses in the park.

“This is another project that shows that Quonset is the premium industrial park in Southern Rhode Island and in New England,” said Greg Mancini, Town Council president.

Ralph Mollis, town manager, noted, “The increase in the rail car volume along with this recent expansion has provided the tools for businesses to locate or relocate to Quonset Business Park. That in turn has resulted in additional tax revenue through payments in lieu of taxes and has resulted in increased job opportunity for North Kingstown residents.”

“It also results in increased daytime population in town which we hope helps existing businesses and helps attract prospective businesses,” he said.

Quonset hosts more than 12,000 workers across over 200 businesses. The new rail yard will serve as another benefit in keeping businesses connected to modern and key transportation networks, local, state and QDC officials said.

Rhode Islanders derive about $1.3 billion in income each year from Quonset, according to a Bryant University study. It also puts $136 million into state and local tax revenue as well as other payments, such direct payments to the town called payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT).

It is a manufacturing hub in the state: One of every six manufacturing jobs in Rhode Island is at Quonset.

Mancini and Mollis said that North Kingstown receives multi-million dollar payments in PILOT and non-PILOT money that is used in calculating revenue in the town budget. The money helps to keep down tax rates.

“Without it, the town would be tapped more to improve schools and the overall quality of life in North Kingstown,” Mancini said.

New Rail Yard

Through the new rail yard, Quonset’s rail operator will gain operational flexibility and expansion opportunities to move industrial rail freight to, from, and within Quonset Business Park.

“Rail car volume in the park has tripled since 2007, companies are expanding and additional track is needed for continued growth,” said Steven J. King, QDC’s managing director.

A current lack of storage areas creates congestion on the park’s rail lines, and the expansion will provide additional capacity to operate the railroad in the business park, King said.

With the completion of this project, Quonset Business Park can enhance its multi-modal transportation solutions for industrial, warehouse and other businesses.

The rail system within Quonset connects directly to the Port of Davisville, Rhode Island’s only public port, the Quonset State Airport, the National Freight Highway System and the M-95 Marine Highway, allowing transitions between rail, ground, marine and air transportation modes.

Quonset had received a $3 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, supplemented by a $1 million match from the QDC.

Seaview Railroad manages the 14 miles of freight rail lines throughout Quonset Business Park. In 2019, Seaview handled 6,315 rail cars of cargo. The top Quonset companies who use the rail system include Toray Plastics, North Atlantic Distribution and BB&S Treated Lumber of New England – employing over 1,000 workers.

The project is slated to be completed in summer 2022.

Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation has helped secure $160 million in federal grants to improve and protect freight rail in Rhode Island and Quonset. The State of Rhode Island has invested an additional $75 million since 2010.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, (D), a member of the Appropriations Committee, worked over the last two decades to secure over $55 million for the Freight Rail Improvement Project (FRIP) at Quonset to provide a meaningful rail connection to the port.

“A better port with improved rail service means more jobs. This project is part of my decades long efforts to expand port and freight capacity at Quonset to bring more business and economic benefits to the state while also reducing pollution and congestion on our roadways,” he said.

Write to Bill Seymour, freelance writer covering news and feature stories, at independent.southcountylife@gmail.com.

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