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Published: Monday, 12/15/2008

CSX still plans new Wood County terminal despite troubled economy

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The slumping regional and national economies may be dragging down railroad freight traffic, but CSX says its plans for a new intermodal terminal near southern Wood County's North Baltimore will stay on track.

"We still plan to begin that construction early next year, by the springtime," Garrick Francis, a railroad spokesman, said last week.

That prediction comes despite a North American railroad slump that has reduced freight shipments by 2.4 percent for the year through last week, including a 9 percent decline compared to the same week in 2007, according to Atlantic Systems Inc., of New York, which issued a report based on Association of American Railroads data.

While the automotive sector has been the biggest drag on rail traffic, intermodal shipments - which involve freight moved by trains, ships, or trucks - also have been down.

Rail intermodal is down 3.6 percent for the year and 9.8 percent in the most recent week, according to Atlantic.

On Wednesday, Mr. Francis said, CSX filed its last environmental-permit application for its $80 million plan to build an intermodal terminal on 500 acres in Henry Township west of North Baltimore

In addition to handling train/truck transfers for containerized freight going to or from area businesses, the facility would be used to sort containers for rail shipments and to inspect long-distance freight trains that otherwise would not stop there.

CSX expects the terminal to employ about 100 people and to attract warehouse and logistics businesses employing hundreds more to the surrounding area.

While its primary competitor, Norfolk Southern Corp., recently laid off 32 train conductors at northwest Ohio terminals, Mr. Francis said CSX so far has avoided layoffs at its area terminals.

CSX has "managed against attrition" over the past few years and even has made some new hires, Mr. Francis said.

Until recently, both railroads had been hiring to replace numerous employees who had retired.

Some of the 15 conductors recently laid off in Toledo,

and 17 laid off in Bellevue, Ohio, could be called back to work as such retirements

continue, said Rudy Husband, a Norfolk Southern spokesman.

"Obviously, retirements could provide opportunities for furloughed employees to be recalled," he said.

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



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