A state agency has given a green signal to a $12.3 million expansion of a Norfolk Southern Railway railyard in South Toledo, a project intended to boost the region's capacity for handling intermodal freight and generate hundreds of transportation-sector jobs.
The Ohio Rail Development Commission said Tuesday it had given notice to proceed on the project, thus releasing nearly $9.7 million in state and federal grants and loans to expand and reconfigure the Airline Junction Intermodal Terminal to improve capacity and reduce congestion.
Extended tracks, new signals, and new equipment and machinery for the terminal are all part of the plans. The rail development commission said its announcement gives Norfolk Southern the authority to buy construction materials with grant and loan funds.
The term "intermodal" refers to freight loaded into truck trailers or cargo containers that uses multiple modes of transportation between shipper and receiver.
"This project streamlines our intermodal operations in Toledo and improves the efficiency of Airline Yard," Bob Huffman, Norfolk Southern's vice president of intermodal operations, said in a statement. "With the anticipated demand to move freight by rail nearly doubling over the next 20 years, these public-private partnerships benefit our nation's transportation infrastructure."
"I'm pleasantly satisfied that this is going to be a very important step for the city of Toledo in the transportation industry," said D. Michael Collins, a city councilman whose district borders the railyard. "This is our first opportunity to develop and prove that we have a niche in transportation and logistics."
Exactly when work will begin was not announced.
"We don't have a schedule yet," said Rudy Husband, a Norfolk Southern spokesman.
The funding package includes a $6.5 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, $2.75 million from the Ohio Department of Development Logistics and Distribution Stimulus Loan Program, and $425,000 in rail development commission Safety Section funds. Norfolk Southern's $2.6 million contribution includes credit for track and signal improvements near the Airline Yard in recent years.
The project will include rerouting the east end of a rail spur that passes through the University of Toledo campus, Ottawa Hills, and Sylvania so that it enters the west end of the railyard instead of the middle. Railroad crossings on Westwood Avenue, Dorr Street, Parkside Boulevard, and Nebraska Avenue will be removed when this work is done.
It also will involve closing Westwood Avenue between South and Hill avenues. This closing had been scheduled to occur in March, but Mr. Collins said the city delayed it, which led to a delay in the release of the grant funds.
A study released late in 2008 by a local task force predicted that expansion of the Airline Junction facility could generate 900 or more jobs, with a payroll estimated at $25.6 million, in and around the terminal.
Most of those jobs would be in trucking or warehousing, while the expanded terminal itself would have a relatively low employment impact.
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