Oh-Penn Region Builds on Transportation Infrastructure

The Oh-Penn Region's transportation network is showing potential for growth thanks to recent infrastructure improvements.

Frederick Jerant
On Friday, August 23, 2013 - 05:00

From road and rail to air and port access, the Oh-Penn Region boasts a diverse transportation network for businesses looking to reach national and global markets.

Drawing more than 500 trucking firms, Oh-Penn  the first officially designated interstate region in the U.S.  is known for its excellent highway system, which offers direct access to Interstates 76, 376, 79 and 80. Along with linking to Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties in Ohio, and Lawrence and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania, these roadways also provide close proximity to Cleveland and Pittsburgh as well as overnight access to New York and Chicago.

The regional highway system also continues to improve. A project to widen and reconstruct I-80 to six lanes from the Ohio Turnpike to State Route 46 was recently completed, and that section of I-80 now sees about 100,000 vehicles and 15,000 trucks per day.

Airport Passengers Rising

For rail, the Oh-Penn Region is served by Class I providers CSX and Norfolk Southern, along with the Class II New Castle Industrial Railroad and short line providers Warren & Trumbull Railroad and Youngstown & Austintown Railroad. The region also has three regional airports, including the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which operates the longest runway in Northeast Ohio.

"Our goal for the near future is to bring more passenger travel to our airport," says Dan Dickten, director of aviation at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. "In fact, we started in February 2013 with casino junkets to Atlantic City. Our big target is to eventually schedule daily service to connecting airports such as Chicago, Detroit, New York, Orlando and Washington, D.C."

Youngstown-Warren Regional recently poured $4 million into upgrading its terminal building, plus added new parking lots and passenger boarding bridges. The airport has also secured a $780,000 grant for a revenue guarantee to help attract a daily carrier.

Dickten adds that natural gas drilling activities connected to the region's Marcellus and Utica shale plays are causing more energy company executives to utilize Youngstown-Warren Regional.

"Three years ago we had 27,000 passengers using our airport, and we expect about 80,000 passengers in 2013," he says. "Our goal is to have an annual passenger base of 500,000, which means attracting one of more major carriers. Big things are ready to happen at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport."

Port Access to the Gulf

The Oh-Penn Interstate Region also sits within close proximity to the deepwater ports of Cleveland and Pittsburgh, while the local Columbiana County Port Authority offers barge access to the Ohio River.

"Both Ohio and Pennsylvania are major maritime states, which most people in the nation don't realize," says Tracy Drake, Columbiana County Port Authority CEO. "Both states rank among the top eight maritime states in America with regard to tonnage moved. Port traffic is a key component in the regional economy."

Adding to the port authority's economic impact is the recent opening of its on-site Wellsville Intermodal Facility, a $5.7 million, 70-acre terminal that can accommodate several companies and provides cargo access to Gulf of Mexico ports. Wellsville Intermodal is already being used by oil and gas companies to transport raw materials and products to the Gulf.

"Companies such as Anchor Drilling Fluids, Arrowhead Utica Pipeline, Cimbar Performance Minerals, Heritage Pipeline, Marathon Petroleum and Quality Liquid Feeds have located at the Wellsville terminal," Drake says. "Wellsville allows barges to dock along the Ohio River and eventually gain access to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway that goes to Mobile, Ala. or the Mississippi River to New Orleans. We now have access to two international ports of call."

Wellsville Intermodal is equipped with a 60-ton overhead crane that can lift massive crates to and from barges, railcars and trucks, and trucks have easy loading dock availability. Also for truckers, a new interchange was constructed on State Route 7 to give them a direct route to Wellsville Intermodal.

"The terminal also has Foreign Trade Zone designation to reduce duties and taxes for companies dealing in international trade," Drake says. "A total of 43 percent of Ohio's entire economy comes out of Northeast Ohio, and our port plays a major role. Potential tenants are contacting us all the time."