Officials in Berkeley County recently celebrated the completion of a $10 million railroad spur project that is expected to help Essroc Italcementi Group's Martinsburg, W.Va., plant ship thousands of tons of product each year via rail instead of area highways. About 100 people attended the official dedication and ribbon cutting for the 1.2-mile rail spur, which connects the plant to Winchester & Western Railroad just south of Martinsburg.

                The completion of the new rail connection follows about $650 million in upgrades that Essroc has made at the Capitol Cement Corp. since purchasing it 2002. The company also has spent about $25 million on capital improvements at seven of 14 off-site distribution facilities in coordination with the investments made at the Martinsburg plant. Winchester & Western Railroad said the railroad added 11 employees to its payroll in order to provide rail service to Essroc, one of the world’s largest cement producers.

                With the plant upgrades in place, the Martinsburg plant is capable of producing 1.8 million tons of cement annually, and Essroc officials said the rail spur would help the company distribute the additional product beyond West Virginia’s neighboring states. The plant was producing 800,000 to 900,000 tons of product per year before Essroc’s investment.

                All rail shipments of cement currently leave the plant via the new spur, which is expected to carry 6,000 rail cars per year. The first shipment via the new spur was made July 25, according to Essroc. Each rail car can carry about 100 tons of cement, four times as much as one truck. In addition to the spur, Essroc’s upgrades at the Martinsburg plant included about 18,000 feet of new railroad track that loops around the industrial site.

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