Gray skies greeted an assembly of political and business VIPs assembled to dedicate a new bulk commodity terminal on the Ohio River.
But within easy sailing distance of the sprawling complex, a potential customer for Kentucky coal in southern Indiana days earlier announced the
purchase of millions of tons of Wyoming coal.With that dilemma fresh in mind, however, officials heralded the new facility as one more addition to the economic arsenal of the state and region.
"It's positively going to be a benefit to Jefferson County and to
Kentucky," said Harvey I. Sloane, the executive of the county government, which with the City of Louisville shares in the development of the 1,600-acre Riverport complex that contains the terminal.
Cooper T. Smith Stevedoring landed the contract to oversee construction and to operate the new bulk port facility.
The terminal boasts a single-shift annual capacity of 3.5 million tons, thanks in part to two concentric rail ovals, each capable of handling 120 cars, and a shaker house and conveyor system built for rapid transfer of commodities from railcar to barge that can off-load 20 cars an hour, or about
2,000 tons, according to Dennis G. Holland, Cooper T. Smith's director of marketing at the Jefferson Riverport.
''The 3.5 million tons is where we start to earn a profit," Mr. Holland noted. "We can up the capacity by simply adding a second or a third
shift to run the terminal."
A CSX Transportation contract to use at least 1 million tons of that capacity provides Riverport with the base it needs to get started.
In addition to CSX, the Norfolk Southern and the Paducah & Louisville railroads both possess direct connections to Riverport over their own tracks, while two other rail companies, Consolidated Rail Corp. and Soo Line Railroad, can roll into Riverport via the other lines' track thanks to access agreements.
The Burlington-Northern Railroad, which is transporting much of the Western coal into the region, reportedly is still negotiating for access that will allow it to use the new port.
But pending clean-air regulations proposed by President Bush already have traditional customers for Kentucky's coal examining alternatives and, in some cases, changing to new sources.
For example, American Electric Power Inc. is buying coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin for a plant at Rockport, Ind.
And Kentucky Utilities Inc. test-burned coal from the Powder River Basin for five days in October.