GUILFORD, CONRAIL LOBBY FOR RIGHT TO RAIL CENTER AT MASS. BASE

GUILFORD, CONRAIL LOBBY FOR RIGHT TO RAIL CENTER AT MASS. BASE

Guilford Transportation Industries and Consolidated Rail Corp. are seeking to convince Massachusetts authorities that each should have the right to operate a proposed rail distribution center at an Army base due to close in 1995.

David Fink, Guilford president, said his company's proposal may be disclosed in the "next two to four weeks" and that operations could start within three to six months. That prediction may be overly optimistic, however, based on comments by army and state officials.Guilford and Conrail are eyeing Army warehouses and rail spurs into Fort Devens at Ayer, Mass. The facilities are in good shape and most recently were used for military hardware returned from the Persian Gulf, said Philip Morris, a Devens spokesman.

Mr. Fink envisions a multipurpose intermodal distribution center to handle containers from the Port of Boston, bulk goods such as coal, and automobiles, which could be set up for "under $5 million."

Anne Aylward, Massport maritime director, said Guilford's proposal is very early. A Canadian Pacific spokesman could not confirm Mr. Fink's statement that CP may join Guilford, perhaps as an entre to the port.

The state assumes it will get Devens, but other federal agencies get first crack at closed military sites. The state is considering the sprawling base, among several sites, for a second major airport.

The idea of an airport faces stiff local opposition. Thorne Mead, deputy transportation secretary, said the state will consider whether rail development could coincide with an airport.

Conrail officials recently met with Stephen Tocco, state economic development secretary, who heads up the state Land Bank, which would control the Devens property if the state gets it. Mr. Tocco reportedly said he might exchange Devens land for jobs with Conrail, but his spokesman said the talks were "very preliminary."