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Published: Thursday, 5/1/2008

CSX announces Wood County terminal as part of bigger plan

DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

CSX Transportation s planned rail terminal west of North Baltimore, Ohio is part of a broader "National Gateway" campaign to improve freight transportation between mid-Atlantic ports and the Midwest, the railroad announced during a news conference Thursday in Dublin, Ohio.

Of $300 million of its own money that CSX has committed to the project, $130 million is to be spent in Ohio, including $80 million for the new North Baltimore terminal and $50 million for expansion of an existing rail yard in south Columbus.

But CSX also is seeking public funds, primarily to replace road overpasses that are too low for trains carrying freight containers stacked two-high on flatcars to pass beneath.

Over the past quarter century, so-called "double-stack" trains have become the railroad industry s most efficient means for transporting containerized freight, both in conjunction with ocean ship lines and on routes within North America.

In meeting with local officials to plan for the North Baltimore terminal, CSX officials indicated that one of its key purposes would be sorting shipments received at Chicago from railroads serving Pacific ports into new trains bound for points throughout CSX s network.

Such shipments today are often unloaded at the western railroads terminals, trucked across Chicago s congested expressways, then reloaded onto trains at CSX s Chicago yards.

Cargo bound for destinations less than a day s drive from Chicago often takes the highway the rest of the way from the Windy City business the railroad would like to tap into.

Yesterday s news conference, however, revealed an eastern dimension to the North Baltimore facility.

To allow freight to flow between North Baltimore and ports in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, CSX has requested that Ohio spend about $60 million to raise or replace 16 low bridges that span its Chicago-Pittsburgh-Washington main line in eastern Ohio, spokesman Bob Sullivan said.

Similar requests have been made for such "clearance projects" along the same route in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia and on connecting routes in other eastern states. CSX estimated the combined cost of building terminals, raising bridges, and other improvements at $700 million.

Gov. Ted Strickland responded favorably to the plan s Ohio portion.

"This is a major competitive advantage that can greatly benefit the citizens of Ohio, and the state of Ohio is committed to doing its part to help build this sort of needed infrastructure," he said in prepared remarks. "In doing so, we ll also be setting an example for other states around the nation."

The North Baltimore facility, for which CSX hopes to break ground late this year and plans a 2010 opening, is expected to employ about 100 people and stretch along the north side of State Rt. 18 between Liberty Hi and Range Line roads in southwestern Wood County.

Last week, a CSX subsidiary purchased 77 acres in the middle of the site that had been the largest missing piece among an estimated 500 acres to be used for the terminal.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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