Ontario County Freight Corridor Development Plan - Town of Manchester

Completion of the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement and the Corridor Plan At its September 11, 2018 meeting, the Manchester Town Board, as Lead Agency for the Plan’s SEQR process, passed a resolution accepting the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) as complete and gave formal Notice of Completion to Involved and Interested Agencies as is required.

Final Steps

Preparation of the SEQR Findings Statement
A finding statement is a written document, prepared following acceptance of a FGEIS, which declares that all SEQR requirements for making decisions on an action have been met. The findings statement identifies the social and economic, as well as environmental, considerations that have been weighed in making a decision to approve or disapprove an action.   Each involved agency (Towns of Manchester and Farmington and the Villages of Manchester, Shortsville, and Clifton Springs) must now prepare its own SEQR findings statement before it can consider adoption of the Plan. The findings statement will be completed by the end of October, 2018.

A positive findings statement means that, after consideration of the FGEIS, the Plan can be approved and, of the alternatives considered, is the one that minimizes or avoids environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable after balancing any adverse environmental impacts against the needs and benefits of the Plan.  If the locality cannot approve the Plan based on analyses in the FGEIS, a negative findings statement must be prepared, documenting the reasons for the denial.

Below are links to the final plan and FGEIS

Final Ontario County Freight Rail Corridor Development Plan & Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement

Plan Approved by the Genesee Transportation Council on October 12, 2017
Ontario County submitted the Final Draft Plan to the Genesee Finger Lakes Transportation Council for their review and approval.  The project was funded with financial Federal Highway Administration funds provided through the Genesee Transportation Council and their approval was required.  The Town of Manchester provided additional funds and Ontario County, the Villages of Manchester, Shortsville and Clifton Springs contributed in-kind services.   

The plan identifies development opportunity areas for commercial, agricultural and light industrial businesses that would that would benefit from locating on or near the Finger Lakes Railway.

Finger Lakes Railway – Ontario County’s Freight Rail Asset

When other localities and counties were losing freight rail service in the 1970’s, Ontario County stepped in to secure the continued operation of critical rail lines linking Canandaigua/Geneva/Victor, and communities in between, with service provided by the Finger Lakes Railway (FLKR). This service provides the critical link to the main national long haul rail lines (CSX, Norfolk and Southern, etc.) and access to national and international markets. 

FLKR owns and operates the line between Canandaigua/Geneva to the Seneca County Line. Ontario County owns the Ontario Central Railroad that is operated by FLKR between Victor and the Shortsville junction. Go to Finger Lakes Railway Service Maps.

Finger Lakes Railway has been in operation for twenty years and is an important part of Ontario County’s economic development infrastructure. For more information go to Finger Lakes Railway.

What is the Ontario County Freight Rail Corridor Plan for the Town of Manchester?

The freight rail corridor plan will look at development or redevelopment options for lands along the seven miles of the Finger Lakes Railway corridor in the Town of Manchester and the Villages of Manchester, Shortsville and Clifton Springs. It is a collaborative effort undertake by Ontario County, the municipalities, and Finger Lakes Railway

The purpose of this project is to prepare a plan that meets the following objectives:
  1. Demonstrates careful planning to assure that future development benefits the community and minimizes impacts to the surrounding communities related to safety, noise, congestion, and environmental and community resources ;
  2. Identifies appropriate “Shovel Ready” development sites and areas for industries and businesses that are enhanced by, or related, to freight rail service and infrastructure;
  3. Specifically defines physical, regulatory, or institutional implementation actions including, but not limited to, public and/or private infrastructure projects, land use planning and zoning changes, environmental and quality of life improvements; and
  4. Creates a prototype that can encourage other localities to cooperatively plan their rail corridors.

Railroad’s Long Relationship with Manchester, NY

From the Beginning
Historically, the combination of free flowing streams that provided water power and the proximity to the Erie Canal made the Town and Villages in Manchester a focal point of industrial development in the 19th century. Rail service began to supplant the Erie Canal for moving freight.

In the early 20th century, the Lehigh Valley Railroad (LVRR) built the Manchester Yard which was one of the largest such rail support facilities in the country. The Yard had a dispatcher/control tower, provided fuel service, primarily coal and ash disposal, and was a maintenance center for freight cars and locomotive as well as track and signal repair. The 1916 Roundhouse still stands today and has been listed by the Landmark Society of Western New York as one of the 2017's Five to Revive. Link Roundhouse Video.

The Manchester Yard was also a division point where thru-trains changed crews and long distance freight trains would be reconfigured for their next destination just the way airline hubs function today. The Yard also had a hotel, restaurant and professional office space. Terminal facilities were also located there for loading and unloading freight that was either to be shipped or was being delivered to the area. Freight rail was dominant into the 1950’s and 1960’s.

In the 1970’s industrial and commercial developed was no longer concentrated in central locations but was disbursed regionally along the largely-completed federal interstate highway system. Trucking provided the mobility and flexibility to serve widely dispersed locations. Rail was largely relegated to heavy freight and bulk cargo leading to the break up of major railroads and abandonment of most of the nation’s and County’s rail infrastructure.

 In the late 1970’s, the pending abandonment of the section of the Lehigh Valley line between Shortsville and Victor would mean the loss of freight service to important industries along the line. In 1979, Ontario County and OC Industrial Development Authority (IDA) intervened and took ownership of the line and leased its operation to the Ontario Central Railroad (OCR). The Finger Lakes Railway (FLR) continued to be the operator of the Conrail Line between Canandaigua - Geneva which provided the critical connection to main national freight rail lines.

In the 1990’s, Conrail sought approval to abandon the critical FLR line. Again, the County and IDA intervened -- this time by assisting the Finger Lakes Railway in acquiring the Ontario County portion of the Conrail Line. This acquisition was essential to maintain the OCR's interchange at Shortsville to access the main rail lines as well as retain freight service to business along the corridor. In 2007, the Finger Lakes Railway acquired Ontario Central Railroad and its lease to operate the railroad for the County. 

Since the 2000’s, the sustained high cost of fuel for trucking, rail’s significant weight-to-miles per gallon advantage over trucking, and a seamless global intermodal transportation and distribution system, has again made access to freight rail service a highly valuable, asset for businesses and economic development. The legacy for today’s villages and towns, however, is a land use development pattern that was created during 19th and mid-20th century. It was then randomly fragmented by abandonments, bankrupt owners that could walk away from serious environmental problems, and often single purpose retrofits of formerly prime locations for other uses.

Freight Rail Access in the 21st Century
Trucking is often considered the only option for shipping/receiving products and materials. The cost of fuel necessary to move a ton of goods per mile has been steadily increasing. Congestion on highways and terminals has increased delivery times.

Access to freight rail service is increasingly important to businesses and industries looking for alternatives to trucking product or raw materials directly to or from their facilities or who want cost effective access to freight rail shipping facilities. Businesses of all sizes recognize the importance of competing in regional, national and international markets. A well integrated freight rail and highway system reduces shipping costs and provides access to those markets.

Links: Lehigh Valley Railroad Historical Society
Transportation Strategies for Freight and Goods Movement in the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region