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By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor
The National Gateway reached a significant milestone last month. On Aug. 14, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, CSX Corp. Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Ward, and other dignitaries broke ground on an intermodal terminal near North Baltimore, Ohio — the first of three new facilities that will be located along the National Gateway, a double-stack corridor CSX plans to build through six states and the District of Columbia.
CSX affiliate Evansville Western Railway Inc. will construct and
operate the 185-acre Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal, which is projected to handle 630,000 containers and trailers annually. To be completed in 2011, the terminal will include 24,000 feet of working track and 100,000 feet of block-swapping track.
Meanwhile, the National Gateway — which is being developed through a public-private partnership (PPP)
between CSX, the six states and federal government — will reach another milestone this month. CSX plans to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) by Sept. 15 seeking a $258 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. Funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the TIGER program provides $1.5 billion in discretionary grants for surface transportation programs.
The TIGER grant would cover the federal government's share of the $842 million National Gateway PPP, says CSX Vice President of Strategic Infrastructure Initiatives Louis Renjel, who spearheads the project. CSX has committed $393 million for the National Gateway, and Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia would provide a total of $192 million, he says.
"Three states — Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia — have committed a total of $82 million so far," he says.
Proposed as an intermodal route linking Midwest markets and mid-Atlantic ports and metropolitan areas, the National Gateway calls for upgrading track, bridges and tunnels — including D.C.'s Virginia Avenue Tunnel — to provide double-stack clearances, and building additional terminals in Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio,
although sites haven't been selected for those facilities.
The route also would be supported by an existing CSX terminal in Chambersburg, Pa.
The National Gateway would run along three existing corridors: the I-70/I-76 Corridor between Washington, D.C., and northwest Ohio via Pittsburgh; the I-95 Corridor between North Carolina and Baltimore via D.C.; and the Carolina Corridor between Wilmington and Charlotte, N.C. CSX predominantly would fund terminal construction and government monies would cover double-stack clearance work. The Class I hopes to begin clearance work in the fall, primarily in Ohio and Pennsylvania, says Renjel.
"We'll have a short window until winter comes," he says.
All clearance work might be completed in 2012, pending the availability of government funding.
The USDOT expects to announce TIGER grant recipients in early 2010. If CSX's application is turned down, the railroad would work with its state partners to lobby for Gateway funding in the surface transportation reauthorization legislation, says Renjel.
The PPP participants are counting on the National Gateway's public benefits — which are projected to total $5 billion — to sway the USDOT's decision on the TIGER grant. During a 30-year period, the initiative is projected to lower CO2 emissions by more than 12 million tons, save businesses more than $3.5 billion in shipping costs, reduce fuel consumption by nearly 1 billion gallons and reduce highway congestion. In addition, the Gateway will create 50,000 jobs, says Renjel.
"We can show that the Gateway is good for the nation," he says.
For now, CSX will continue to work with the six states to secure all of their funding while awaiting word on the TIGER grant application.
"We have the support of all the governors in the affected states," says Renjel.