If you knew Suez, like I know Suez!
The federal transportation bill that passed last week has $90 million earmarked for use in developing an intermodal rail route linking the Port of Virginia with distribution markets in the Midwest.
The Heartland Corridor will allow double-stack trains to move from the Port of Virginia, across West Virginia and terminate in Columbus, Ohio. From Columbus, trains will be able to link up with western rail networks and/or the existing Norfolk Southern network that is double-stack cleared to Chicago.
The federal money will be used to link existing rail systems, build new rail lines where needed and raise tunnel and bridge heights to allow for passage of Norfolk Southern's stacktrains.
Lawmakers from Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia worked with state and regional economic development bodies, transportation planners, officials from the Virginia Port Authority and leaders at the Norfolk Southern Corp. to develop the Heartland Corridor project. It is estimated that the project will take five years to complete and cost $266 million.
The Heartland Corridor project will increase the competitive position of the Port of Virginia by cutting the present route to the Midwest by 250 miles. Currently, double-stack trains traveling west must first go north to Harrisburg, Pa., to avoid tunnels that are too low. Eliminating the northbound leg to Harrisburg means cutting a day off the transit time to Chicago.
The Heartland Corridor will provide significant portions of all three states to more international trade. In Virginia, intermodal ramps will be built in the Roanoke Valley region.
In addition, $15 million was appropriated in the transportation bill for the Western Freeway Rail Corridor at the eastern end of the Heartland Corridor, another line to serve the proposed Craney Island Marine Terminal and the new Maersk marine terminal, now under construction.
Other appropriations in the federal transportation bill that will be used in development of the Heartland Corridor include $5 million to enlarge tunnel clearances and $33 million for intermodal ramps in Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio.
With more ocean carriers using Suez size ships, this intermodal link is a well timed, tactical move to enhance opportunities to by-pass the WC congestion and labor issues. It will also continue to erode the NJ/NY Port Authority's ability to secure long-term investment for infrastructure improvements and dredging of the Kill van Kull channel.
Where does your company stand with regard to East Coast versus West Coast transhipments, or Panama Transit versus Suez Transit long term?