The Toledo City Plan Commission approved a site review for plans that include 10 new tracks for railcars.
Activity at Norfolk Southern’s Toledo Intermodal Terminal has more than doubled in the last four years, and now the railroad has received a city commission’s approval for a major expansion there.
By a 4-0 vote Thursday, the Toledo City Plan Commission approved a site review for plans that include 10 new tracks for railcars that handle freight trailers and containers, 644 new trailer parking spaces, and a new access road 30 feet wide onto the site from Westwood Avenue.
“This is a big economic development thing for us,” plan commission member Ken Fallows said during a brief discussion before the vote. “Norfolk Southern needs this to compete with [rival CSX Transportation’s terminal in] North Baltimore.”
Bill Harris, a Norfolk Southern assistant vice president for government relations, referred Blade questions about the project’s cost, timetable, and employment potential to a railroad spokesman who did not respond later Thursday to a request for comment.
But Mr. Harris told the plan commission that the Toledo facility has been “more successful than we thought it would be” after a local Intermodal Task Force persuaded Norfolk Southern to build track improvements several years ago — significantly subsidized by public money — to improve the fluidity of train movements at the facility.
The task force’s report, released in 2009, said NS’s Toledo terminal, also known as Airline Junction and which then handled about 30,000 truck/train transfers annually, could boost that volume to 60,000 if nearby tracks and signals were upgraded.
Such upgrades were built during 2011 at a cost of $12.3 million, including $9.7 million in state and federal grants. Truck/train transfer activity steadily increased before, during, and after the project and reached 66,680 transfers, or lifts, last year.
The only member of the public to speak during the plan commission hearing was Tony Simmons, who lives on Airline Avenue, a street whose homes run along the Norfolk Southern mainline tracks that, in turn, border part of the intermodal terminal’s southern edge.
Mr. Simmons wondered if any homes in his neighborhood would be taken for the project and if the improvements might include track upgrades that would reduce how much his house shakes when trains go by.
Plan commission staff said the expansion would occur entirely to the north, while Mr. Harris said the main line tracks are already well maintained. All work, Mr. Harris said, will occur on property the railroad already controls.
No new buildings are proposed. A “frontage greenbelt” will be established along the new Westwood entrance to reduce the glare from trucks’ headlights into another neighborhood south of the tracks there.
“I’m all for it — I’m a truck driver,” Mr. Simmons said, noting that during busy times, trucks using the terminal’s current Hill Avenue entrance back up onto Hill.
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