CSX Transportation and New York-New Jersey port officials say the opening of a section of track to trains carrying double-stacked, high-cube containers will increase the railroad's and port's reach into the Midwest.
The officials spoke Friday while showing off a $20 million project to raise clearances on a five-mile track linking port terminals with CSX's main route between New York and the Midwest. The project, completed early last month, is part of the Liberty Corridor Freightway championed by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who spoke at the ceremony.
The Liberty Corridor's rail clearance project was highlighted by the enlargement of two tunnels, including a 4,400-foot tunnel under Jersey City that was built during the Lincoln administration. The tunnels were closed for eight months during construction, necessitating a slightly longer route for trains headed to points north and west of the port.
By The Numbers: U.S. Intermodal Container Traffic.
New York-New Jersey's main North Atlantic competitor for intermodal rail traffic to the Midwest is the Port of Virginia, which hopes to benefit from Norfolk Southern's recent opening of the Heartland Corridor, a stacktrain route from Norfolk to Columbus, Ohio. CSX is developing its rival National Gateway from the Mid-Atlantic to the Midwest.
CSX officials said the enlarged tunnels will allow "fully profiled" trains with stacked high-cube containers with nine-foot, six-inch heights, that will connect with the $175 million intermodal hub CSX plans to open early next year in Northwest Ohio. The Ohio terminal will act as an airline-style hub that will shuffle containers to feeder routes throughout the Ohio Valley and Midwest.
"You hear a lot about the Heartland Corridor. My statement is, ‘Bring them on.’ We can handle them here in New Jersey and beat them head-on, straight up every day," said Clarence Gooden, CSX executive vice president and chief commercial officer. He said CSX has an 83 percent share of the New York-New Jersey rail market and "it is incredibly important to us … that this port becomes very successful."
Rick Larrabee, New York-New Jersey's director of port commerce, said intermodal rail now accounts for 13 percent of port traffic. He said the goal is to push that over 20 to 25 percent. During the last decade the port authority has invested $450 million in its ExpressRail on-dock rail terminals. He said an additional $100 million has been authorized and that further investment is planned.
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