Norfolk Southern Railway’s long-awaited project to carve a double-stack intermodal train corridor through the Appalachian Mountains just got a bit longer, as the company got approval from Ohio to extend it from Columbus down to Cincinnati.
NS launched its Heartland Corridor project in 2007, to run stack trains from ocean container terminals around Norfolk, Va., up through rugged mountains of Virginia and West Virginia before reaching Columbus in the center of Ohio. When done, it would take more than 200 miles or a full day off the time normally required for that run.
The project required expanding the size of numerous tunnels, and is slated for completion this August with the first revenue loads moving through soon after. While it was conceived as a way to serve the growing ocean box business before the recession cut down container trade flows, its opening comes as ocean trade is growing again and as domestic intermodal has been surging.
Mike McClellan, NS vice president intermodal marketing, said “Ohio is strategically positioned to satisfy the growing demand for high-quality intermodal freight service throughout the Midwest.”
Eastern-U.S. rival CSX Transportation is also targeting Ohio, and is already picking up business linked to a new intermodal terminal it will open early next year near Toledo.
NS said it has now received official notice from the Ohio Rail Development Commission to proceed with building a double-stack line extension from Columbus down to Cincinnati in Ohio’s southwest corner. That puts it on another interstate highway link at the Kentucky border, plus connections to the Ohio River.
The nearly $6.1 million extension will use $3.6 million in federal economic stimulus funds, plus money from NS and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. It will raise clearances for intermodal trains at five points between Columbus and Sharonville, and it will add tracks at the NS Rickenbacker intermodal facility in Columbus.
“The double stack clearance projects are essential because they remove trucks from the I-71 and I-75 corridors in southwest Ohio,” said OKI Executive Director Mark Policinski. “These projects reduce air pollution and congestion while, at the same time, improving our ability to compete in global markets.”
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