A new freight terminal in Yaphank is expected to fuel the local economy and could free Long Island's highways of thousands of trucks every year, the terminal's operators said at the grand opening Tuesday.
With 80 adjacent acres available for expansion, officials anticipate the facility by 2016 will handle a million tons of goods per year -- items that will not use truck shipping and contribute to pollution and congestion, according to U.S. Rail of New York, the terminal operator.
"Five years from now, you'll see a lot of development around here because of proximity" to the terminal, said U.S. Rail president Ted Mills, who attended Tuesday's ceremony.
The terminal is served by a 3.4-mile rail spur off the Long Island Rail Road. Three tracks for construction material are now operating, with another six merchandise tracks to be constructed by year's end.
Diesel-powered freight trains can use the terminal to deliver materials such as aggregate -- crushed or whole rock used to make concrete and asphalt -- which is then loaded onto trucks to deliver to customers, terminal representatives said. When the merchandise tracks are built, commodities such as biodiesel and flour can be moved as well.
"This is all about jobs. This is all about taking trucks off the road," said Mark Lesko, Brookhaven's supervisor.
The development and construction of the $40 million facility was privately funded by a group of construction and rail companies, including Pratt Brothers Contracting of Bay Shore and U.S. Rail.
James Pratt, president of Pratt Brothers, said the project has provided 25 permanent jobs at the site, and he expects local truckers to be hired to move cargo to or from the terminal.
Johan McConnell, president of the South Yaphank Civic Association, said she sees the project as a triumph over vehicle congestion.
"I feel this helps the environment," McConnell said at the grand opening. "It takes trucks off the roads." Terminal operators have promised to plant trees around the perimeter to obscure operations, she said.
McConnell was unconcerned about local traffic coming out of the terminal, pointing out the station's proximity to the LIE.
Elected officials at the event said the terminal signals Long Island's economic comeback.
"We are open for business," said state Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue).
"This is the day the worm turns when it comes to the economic climate on Long Island," Lesko said.