CLEVELAND — A new $4.5 million rail loop linking the Port of Cleveland with main lines nearby is expected to enable faster, more efficient movement of heavy cargo at the site.
The rail loop is considered a key new capability for the first major U.S. port that ocean freighters reach while sailing from the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes, the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.
Railroad cars generally can carry more cargo and take it farther than the trucks that typically move smaller loads to local destinations, such as northeast Ohio factories.
The rail link broadens the reach of the port, which is trying to sell shippers on the idea that they can drop off cargo in Cleveland to be transported into the Midwest or beyond by rail instead of sailing further into the Great Lakes, said David Gutheil, the port’s vice president of maritime logistics.
“When you go to any port in the country, they have much better rail connectivity,” Mr. Gutheil said. “We have now caught up.”
More than a mile of track now runs through the 80-acre port complex to connect rail lines with main lines running through Cleveland, providing greater access between the port and two prominent railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern.
“It’s a natural fit,” he said. “Maritime is the most efficient form of transportation. And then to be able to transfer it to the second most efficient form of transportation, rail, benefits us and benefits our customers.”
The improvement project was finished in the autumn of 2012 with the help of a $3 million forgivable state loan, the newspaper said.
About 160 rail cars will be loaded with three shiploads of steel in the coming weeks in a large train staging area.
Port officials hope that becomes a more common sight.
Because the Seaway closes for the season this weekend, they are not likely to know until later in the year whether the addition of the rail loop will attract much new business.