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Published: Sunday, 7/13/2003

Ford makes tracks at Hoffman Road

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When DaimlerChrysler AGopened its expanded Toledo North Assembly plant four years ago, it vacated a railcar loading lot across the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks from the factory - in favor of loading tracks on its own property.

Now Ford Motor Co. is moving in across the tracks from its competitor.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission has announced a $768,736 low-interest loan to the Ann Arbor that will finance pavement improvements and the purchase of two locomotives that will allow the railroad to revive the Hoffman Road lot as a regional distribution center for Ford vehicles.

About 30 to 35 railcars per day, each carrying between eight and 18 vehicles, are expected to be unloaded, with an annual business of 90,000 to 124,000 vehicles, the rail commission said. The facility will employ 12 people.

“It's just good economic development,” said James Seney, the rail commission's executive director. “It makes use of an idle facility, and it fits Toledo's transportation-center mission.”

Mariena Lepior, Ann Arbor's executive vice president, agreed that the facility's “strategic location” close to I-75, I-280, and U.S. 23 was a factor in re-establishing the site.

Andy Sawers, the director of car-haul operations for Ford, said deliveries will begin July 21.

The vehicles involved are made primarily in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Norfolk, Va., and are destined for dealerships in the Toledo area and throughout Michigan, Mr. Sawers said. Such vehicles have been unloaded in Fostoria in the past, he said, and while there will be a slight reduction in business at the terminal there, some traffic now handled at other terminals will be shifted to Fostoria.

The Ann Arbor facility is within a mile of the I-75/I-280 interchange, though trucks to or from I-475 and U.S. 23 will need to use the Stickney Avenue interchange to get on or off I-75.

The Ann Arbor operates a 50-mile rail line between Toledo and its namesake city, but most of its business is concentrated in Toledo and interchanged to larger railroads here. Railcars of Jeeps that DaimlerChrysler loads at its plant are assembled by the Ann Arbor into trains for Norfolk Southern and CSX to pick up, rather than going anywhere on Ann Arbor's main line.

Ms. Lepior said the Ford traffic will be brought into Toledo by CSX and Norfolk Southern, then switched and positioned for unloading by Ann Arbor. Auto Warehousing Corp., will do the unloading.

Mr. Seney said he believed the same auto-carrier cars that bring Fords to Toledo will be reloaded with outbound Jeeps, which will improve railroad efficiency.



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