$16M grant to benefit proposed cracker

DILLES BOTTOM — The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding $16 million in grant funds to improve 30 miles of existing railroad tracks in Belmont County.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, said he believes the funding and the rail project could help to advance development of a proposed PTT Global Chemical America-Daelim ethane cracker plant in the Dilles Bottom area of Belmont County.

He released the following statement after the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a grant award for the Ohio Rail Development Commission: “This is great news for our region, which is entering a new chapter for economic development, and very positive news for the proposed PTTGCA-Daelim ethane cracker. Improving safety and capacity of the rail line will directly support job growth and private investment along the Ohio River, which is very welcome news for a region that too often is at the back of the line when it comes to federal spending. I was glad to lead an Ohio delegation letter to (Department of Transportation) Secretary (Elaine) Chao to support this vital $16 million project.”

PTT spokesman Dan Williamson agreed that the grant represents great news for Belmont County and said it would be good news for PTT as well, if the cracker project moves forward.

Johnson, though, is optimistic about the grant’s impact on the companies’ future decision about whether to build the cracker plant.

“Importantly, the proposed improvement to the Norfolk Southern River Line (which runs from Jefferson County, through Belmont County to Monroe County) is critical to the development of the proposed PTT Global Chemical America facility, and represents another significant step toward making this important, game-changing project a reality.

“The PTTGCA-Daelim project would be a multi-billion dollar investment with thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent, high paying jobs; and, this redevelopment assistance is a critical step in order for the site to be ready. With these improvements, Norfolk Southern will be able to safely and effectively handle new traffic and ensure the continued safety of rail operations.”

According to the transportation department, the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program grant is in the amount of $16,250,600.

“I think it’s great news for the county. Anytime that we can have infrastructure upgrades of this magnitude it is a good thing. Whether it’s water and sewer, roadways or, in this case, rail, it’s a great investment to our riverfront area, and we think it’s going to be a valuable tool in attracting economic development,” Belmont County Commissioner J.P. Dutton said. He would not speculate about the possible impact of this news on the potential for an ethane cracker plant at Dilles Bottom in the Shadyside area.

“We remain cautiously optimistic. We are working day by day to further growth and economic development in our county. We’re grateful for all the hard work Congressman Bill Johnson put into this,” Dutton said.

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