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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 5/30/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

CSX wants to expand in Wood Co. with U.S. aid

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A crane at the CSX Northwest Ohio Terminal in North Baltimore lowers a freight container onto a truck chassis. A crane at the CSX Northwest Ohio Terminal in North Baltimore lowers a freight container onto a truck chassis.
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NORTH BALTIMORE, Ohio — CSX Transportation’s Northwest Ohio Terminal has been open slightly longer than two years, but already the railroad company is talking up expansion of its capacity.

That is, as long as the federal government is willing to pick up half the bill.

Freight traffic that already exceeds expectations and further growth once route improvements are completed between Ohio and the Atlantic coast both justify expansion, CSX officials said during a news conference and media tour Wednesday at the facility in Wood County’s Henry Township, just west of North Baltimore.

The proposal is to extend the terminal’s container-handling area by 2,300 feet and add two wide-span gantry cranes to the five operating there.

But without a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant to cover half the project’s $42 million estimated cost, it won’t be built, said Rusty Orben, CSX’s director of public affairs.

Spending just the $21 million that CSX has budgeted for the project would produce “half a loaf,” Mr. Orben said after the tour.

CSX plans to file its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant application, for which the Wood County commissioners voted a supporting resolution earlier this month, by Monday, and expects to hear a response in September, Mr. Orben said.

If the grant is approved, he said, construction will start next spring and be finished by the first quarter of 2015.

The 500 acres CSX acquired last decade for its initial construction, a facility that employs nearly 300 people and cost $175 million in CSX and private-partner funds to build, has ample space for the proposed expansion.

“This site was set up with a footprint to enable expansion,” said Joel Kuhlman, a Wood County commissioner. “Construction will be on-site and won’t interfere with the surrounding community.”

The terminal now has capacity to handle about 2 million freight containers a year, including some that are unloaded from one railcar and reloaded onto another; others that stay loaded on the same railcar, but the car is switched from one train to another; and a few that are transferred between trains and trucks at the facility.

How much of that capacity now is used wasn’t disclosed, but Paul Hand, the North Region general manager for CSX Intermodal Terminals Inc., said traffic has grown significantly since the terminal’s 2011 opening.

He cited the example of CSX’s local terminal in Louisville, which formerly loaded or unloaded about 21,000 freight containers annually — volume Mr. Hand said has doubled now that cargo can be shipped to any terminal CSX serves, not just the few that had direct service from Louisville.

When the North Baltimore facility opened, officials said truck activity would start at about 35 both in and out per day. That’s up to 75 now, Mr. Hand said.

“This will never be a big O&D [origin and destination] terminal,” he said, citing for comparison CSX’s Chicago terminal and its 5,000 daily truck trips. “But it has potential for growth.”

That growth should accelerate, officials said, once underpass and tunnel work on a CSX line across eastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland allows full-capacity operation of “double-stack” container trains. Additional tunnel and bridge work is proposed that would open up routes to ports in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia for such trains, which carry containers stacked two-high on specially designed flat cars.

Double-stacking allows an increase in the amount of freight handled without increasing the number of trains, said Peter Craig, CSX’s terminal superintendent at North Baltimore.

John Stewart, chairman of the Henry Township trustees, said expanding the terminal would be good for the community.

“It’s jobs — it’s what people are looking for: good-paying jobs with good benefits,” Mr. Stewart said, although railroad officials made no commitments about the exact number of the expansion might provide.

North Baltimore Mayor Mike Julien said that not only has the terminal become a local employment center, but people who work there patronize other businesses in the village.

“Invariably, I see people with CSX cars, CSX clothing. It has helped our local businesses,” the mayor said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation’s State Rt. 18 bypass, meanwhile, has reduced through traffic in the village center, he said.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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