Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation are expanding their eastern U.S. intermodal rail networks, with new routes, facilities and services expected this year.
NS in mid-January opened the Heartland Connector, a double-stack line between Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, that shortens by 212 miles the intermodal route between the automotive capital of Detroit and the Port of Virginia. Before the upgrade, intermodal trains leaving Norfolk, Va., for Cincinnati or Detroit took longer routes through Tennessee or Pennsylvania, adding up to two days to transit times.
The connector is part of the larger Heartland Corridor, the public-private partnership and intermodal route connecting the mid-Atlantic markets with Chicago and the Midwest. NS raised vertical clearances on 28 tunnels and removed 24 overhead obstacles on one of its main lines before launching service on the corridor in 2010. The railroad this year plans to open intermodal terminals in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. It broke ground last year on its Memphis Regional Intermodal Facility in Rossville, Tenn., an anchor in its Crescent Corridor intermodal project connecting the South and Northeast. The Memphis facility will handle more than 300,000 containers. The company’s ambitious goal is to capture the freight currently hauled on eastern interstates by more than 1 million trucks.
CSX is working on intermodal routes linking East Coast ports from Baltimore to North Carolina with its North Baltimore, Ohio, intermodal terminal near Toledo, which opened a year ago. As of last fall, CSX had completed one-third of the clearance work in its National Gateway project, scheduled to be complete by 2015. CSX is targeting a 2015 completion date to offer stack train efficiencies by the time larger Panama Canal locks allow more container ships to call the East Coast.
CSX last month launched on-dock rail service at the Virginia Port Authority’s APM Terminal in Portsmouth, leveraging an exclusive agreement with Maersk Line to transport its inbound discretionary cargo from Virginia to the Midwest.