Bringing rail service to the Great Stream Commons may be just the shot in the arm needed to push forward this economic development project south of Allenwood.
"Because the rails will offer an additional mode of transportation, it will give us a significant advantage," said Don Alexander, president of the Union County Economic Development Corp.
For a number of years the only sign of development at the site has been the Eye Center of Central Pennsylvania.
Progress is being made as Railroad Construction Co. near Route 15 works to rehabilitate the railroad tracks through Allenwood Friday. SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority works to open rail service to the Great Stream Commons.
However, Alexander said marketing efforts to bring more business to Great Stream Commons are finally paying off.
With its location near both Route 15 and Interstate 80, it has long been a prime site for industry.
Now with rail service, it makes it that much more attractive.
"We have been in the past two years aggressively marketing the park for food production and distribution activities," Alexander said.
Track improvements to rail lines feeding into the site are about 70 percent complete, according to Jeff Stover, executive director of the SEDA-Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority.
"There are four miles of track between White Deer and New Columbia," he said. "The track was in place but in poor condition. That work is about done. There are a couple of grade crossings to upgrade."
Additional work will include restoration of a railroad bridge crossing White Deer Creek. It will involve re-using existing bridge beams and replacing two piers.
Bids for the bridge rehabilitation are expected to go out later this year.
Financing for the $2.8 million project comes from a TIGER II grant the Joint Rail Authority received from the Federal Highway Administration in 2010.
Alexander said Target still is looking to come to Great Stream Commons.
However, it is unknown when the Minneapolis-based retailing company will actually bring a distribution center there.
With the economy still slow, Target has held off on some of its investments, he explained.
Alexander remains optimistic that more companies will make commitments to locate at the site.
Rail service could well be the final remaining piece of the puzzle needed for Great Stream Commons to grow.
"It's not unusual for economic development deals to take months, even years," he said.