WEIRTON — The reopening of long-dormant mooring cells along the Ohio River in Weirton will be key to plans the Frontier Group of Companies has for the former steel-making property it has been working to redevelop in the city.
The company, which purchased more than 1,100 acres of property from ArcelorMittal USA in 2016, announced this week an agreement with Industry Terminal and Salvage to operate the port facility, which officials said will provide a new mode of access to the site.
Brad Busatto, president and owner of IT&S, explained his boats transport barges along the Ohio River and other corridors, connecting with larger ports in other parts of the country, and, eventually, foreign markets.
“This port connects Weirton to the world and the world to Weirton,” Busatto said.
According to Busatto, once fully operational, the port will have the capacity for close to 100 barges to be docked in Weirton at any one time, bringing cargo to businesses located in the community, and allowing them another avenue to ship their product.
“This is a world-class facility,” Busatto said, noting it will be key to the growing petrochemical industry in the region. “It will revitalize a 100-mile stretch of the Ohio River.”
Several of Industry Terminal and Salvage’s barges were docked at Weirton Wednesday afternoon, with Busatto pointing to some of the cargo, including sand and gravel used in construction, gypsum, methanol, pig iron, ferro silicon and ferro chrome.
Busatto acknowledged the efficiency of water transportation, explaining one ton of cargo can be transported 532 miles by river on one gallon of diesel fuel. His company can transport a maximum of 15 barges at a time.
The redevelopment and reopening of the mooring cells is the first stage of improving access to the Frontier Crossings site, according to Pat Ford, business development director of Frontier.
River access has been key to many of the prospects Ford said have been looking at the property, including several international companies.
The company has been working with the state Division of Highways for the construction of a new access road, which could be ready by the first quarter of 2022, Ford explained.
“This time next year, we’ll have both of those access points opened up,” he said, noting Frontier also plans to revitalize the rail line on the property, providing three immediate avenues of transport.
Frontier officials estimate their plans for a 500-acre industrial park and inland river port can accommodate 3.5 million square feet of new industrial and commercial businesses, with a projected $2 billion of private investment.