Poultry Industry Eyes Boost With Rail Expansion

SNOW HILL – The local poultry industry could get a boost if a request for $12.4 million in state funds to widen the Snow Hill freight railroad line is successful.

The rail line serves poultry growers and processing facilities, bringing in feed corn, soy and grains from distilleries. The Tyson feed processing plant in Snow Hill would be the greatest beneficiary.

The 27-mile rail line stretches between Snow Hill and Frankford, Del., with 23 miles of that railway in Maryland. The line carries about 2,100 carloads annually.

County staff members say that the Snow Hill freight line needs renovation to allow larger railcars, which have become more and more prevalent in the shipping industry and are now nearly standard.

The Snow Hill rail line currently accommodates loads up to 263,500 pounds. The new railroad would carry up to 286,000 pounds.

Future economic growth in Worcester County would also be enhanced, according to grant application documents

“What this will allow us to do is take it to a higher level,” said Worcester County Economic Development Director Jerry Redden.

The shipping industry has switched in large part to larger railcars, which the current Snow Hill freight line cannot accommodate, which, Redden said Tuesday before the Worcester County Commissioners, puts an unfair burden on the local poultry industry.

“They can’t get the grain in at the right price,” said Redden.

Making these improvements could attract new businesses, save jobs at existing businesses, make those businesses more competitive through reduction of transportation costs and even put more money back into the local economy, according to the county’s grant application documentation.

The industrial area in Bishop has not attracted much heavy industry partly because of the limited capacity of the freight line. Other industrial areas on Delmarva have that capacity, which makes Worcester County less sought after by industry.

Upgrading the size of the rail line could lead one day to passenger service.

“I know a lot of people would like to see that as well,” said Redden.

Commissioner Judy Boggs expressed excitement over the potential grant.

“It would be wonderful if we received the grant. I’m sure it’s very competitive,” said Boggs.      

Redden responded, “Statistically we have one chance in 12.”