A key component of CSX Transportation's northern tier strategy will come into play in early 2011 with the opening of the Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal.
The $175 million intermodal hub near North Baltimore, Ohio, will reduce transit times by at least a day as it routes containerized cargo from West Coast ports around Chicago to the many distribution facilities located in the Ohio Valley.
"This is really a game changer for us," Bill Clement, vice president of intermodal at CSX, told the Los Angeles Transportation Club.
Chicago is the largest rail complex in the nation where much of the interlining between eastern and western railroads takes place. However, the rail yards are scattered throughout the metropolitan area, and transferring containers from one rail carrier to another often involves trucking the boxes through the congested city.
As a result, what should be a 12-hour transit through the Chicago area can easily turn into a 24 to 48-hour trip, Clement said.
With the opening of the Northwest Ohio hub, CSX will by-pass the city with all of its "beyond Chicago" freight, improving both reliability and transit times.
Once at the hub, large electric cranes that are four times as wide and twice as high as the typical cranes found at seaports will lift the containers, further streamlining the transcontinental move. Also, the new cranes will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent compared to diesel cranes, Clement said.
The Ohio terminal is part of a larger CSX intermodal network known as the National Gateway Project that will offer unobstructed passage for double-stack trains from the Virginia ports to the Ohio Valley and on to Chicago.
The National Gateway is being planned to coincide with the widening of the Panama Canal. When the canal is widened in 2014, large container vessels of up to 12,000-TEU capacity will be able to transit the facility with Asian cargo destined to East Coast ports on all-water services.
CSX supports seaports on both coasts, Clement said, and the Northwest Ohio facility will expedite the flow of containerized cargo to and from Atlantic as well as Pacific Coast gateways.
About 60 to 65 percent of CSX's intermodal freight moves on its northern tier. CSX's southern tier strategy calls for constructing an intermodal hub in the Southeast although the site has not yet been chosen.
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