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Rail News: Intermodal

NS begins tunnel clearance work on Heartland Corridor

The key tunnel portion of Norfolk Southern Railway's Heartland Corridor project is under way. Last month, crews began raising vertical clearances in some of the 28 tunnels on the intermodal route between the port of Hampton Roads, Va., and Chicago, launching a three-year engineering project aimed at increasing the corridor's freight capacity.

When the project is completed in early 2010, NS will operate double-stack trains along the corridor through Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio, and shave about 200 miles off an existing intermodal route between the East Coast and Midwest. Currently, double-stack trains head to the Midwest via Harrisburg, Pa., or Knoxville, Tenn.

Crews will raise tunnel clearances by lowering track, notching corners into an arched roof or installing a new roof. Tunnel lengths range from 174 feet to 3,302 feet.

Early next year, work will begin on three other tunnels in Virginia and eight tunnels in southern West Virginia. Remaining tunnels will be modified in two additional phases. The Heartland Corridor project also calls for increasing overhead clearances on seven railroad bridges, three overhead bridges, three rail signals and three sets of overhead wires; and constructing intermodal terminals in Columbus, Ohio, Prichard, W.Va., and the Roanoke, Va., area.

NS, the states of Virginia, Ohio and West Virginia, and federal government formed a public-private partnership to fund the project. The federal government has authorized $95 million toward the $151 million cost of tunnel clearances; Virginia has appropriated $22.4 million for terminal construction and clearances for the four tunnels in the state; West Virginia has enacted legislation to provide funding for rail intermodal projects, which first will be applied to development of the Prichard terminal; and Ohio is contributing $836,355 or 95 percent of the cost to raise overhead obstructions in the state.

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More News from 11/15/2007