NORTH BALTIMORE, Ohio — A small town in northwestern Ohio is on its way to becoming one of CSX railroad’s globally significant hubs as construction is close to complete on the state-of-the-art Northwest Ohio Terminal Facility.
CSX hosted a media day in November as an update to the intermodal train terminal project just outside of North Baltimore, Ohio, in Wood County.
“This is the best technology available in intermodal facilities,” said Peter Craig, who has been terminal superintendent since February, 2010. He oversees the North Baltimore facility, as well as terminals in Cleveland, Columbus and Detroit.
Scheduled to open in the spring, the terminal is the latest link in a transportation network owned by CSX Corp. of Jacksonville, Fla., designed to speed up transportation for agricultural and other products. The terminal is the latest piece of the National Gateway, a plan to create a more efficient rail route linking Mid-Atlantic ports with Midwestern markets.
“It’s a direct line for us to our eastern partners,” Craig said. “Double-stacking will make the East Coast ports more attractive.”
Double stacking is a method of moving twice as much freight on a train by stacking shipping containers two high.
Through “intermodal” means, CSX says products can be transported by ship, train or truck in standard-sized shipping containers. The increased capacity is designed to meet demand for a 70 percent increase in rail freight transportation by 2020.
At terminals such as the one in North Baltimore, shipping containers are moved from trucks to train cars using cranes. When they reach their destination, containers are moved back to trucks for delivery. The products inside are loaded into the container only once and unloaded at the final destination.
The project required higher clearances on existing tracks, new terminals and greater capacity to handle double-stacking. Its goal is to improve the flow of freight by rail, enhancing the variety of products available to Ohio consumers and increasing the Midwest’s ability to deliver goods to world markets.
Craig said the terminal will make rail shipping more convenient for local businesses.
“It’ll be up to our customers to see how they want to use the terminal,” he said. “How can our customers take advantage of the terminal? What is the best use of it?”
About 25 trains a day and 630,000 containers per year are expected to be serviced at the terminal, shipping anything from agricultural commodities and food to household electronic equipment and clothing. No hazardous materials are to be shipped from there.
“The most hazardous thing we’ll have is household paint,” Craig said.
In its first year, the local portion of the terminal is expected to serve 20,000 trucks from a radius of at least 100 miles, including Tiffin, Fostoria, Findlay, Bowling Green, Toledo and Napoleon.
“Probably more,” Craig said.
The site is west of North Baltimore, three miles from Interstate 75, with its entrance at State Route 18 and Wingston Road. The entire property encompasses 500 acres and is three miles long. It has 24,000 feet of working track and an additional 100,000 feet of “block swapping” track.
From the hub, rail lines run north to Detroit, south to Cincinnati, west to Chicago and east to Pittsburgh.
The terminal has five cranes created by Hans Kuenz GmbH of Austria, which will transfer shipping containers from trucks to trains. The five wide-span cranes service eight tracks, two straddle lanes, one truck lane and five container stacks. Each crane can lift up to 100,000 pounds, but the average weight of a shipping container is 35,000-45,000 pounds.
According to information from CSX, the cranes are almost silent and are ultra-efficient. They are expected to reduce energy consumption, improve efficiency and reduce emissions. The cranes use electric motors when transferring cargo containers between trains and trucks. During part of the process, electricity is stored for later use.
The electricity conservation is only one of the energy efficiencies of the process.
CSX says rail shipping in general is environmentally friendly and energy efficient.
“On average, railroads are three or more times more fuel efficient than the alternative, and with constant innovation, freight rail becomes more efficient every day,” said CSX statistics. “Trains can move a ton of freight nearly 500 miles on a single gallon of fuel.”
One train can carry the load of more than 280 trucks.
The North Baltimore terminal is a central hub in the I-70/I-76 corridor of the National Gateway between Washington, D.C., and northwest Ohio via Pittsburgh. The other two major corridors are to be I-95 between North Carolina and Baltimore, and the Carolina Corridor between Wilmington and Charlotte.
The project includes upgrades to existing tracks, equipment and facilities, which are being funded by a public-private partnership. In Ohio, the federal and state governments each have contributed $30 million.
In return for the public investment, CSX statistics say improved flow of freight will provide $22 in public benefits for every $1 of public money invested over 30 years. Benefits include increased safety by reducing highway congestion.
In Ohio, CSX says National Gateway will provide nearly $1.7 billion of public benefits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by almost 2 million tons, expanding rail market access, enhancing rail transportation infrastructure, reducing highway congestion by combining the efficiency of freight rail with trucking for a complete intermodal solution, saving nearly $70 million in highway maintenance costs.
Overall, the National Gateway project is expected to create more than 50,000 jobs, with almost 10,000 of those jobs created during the initial construction phase.
Locally, the terminal is estimated to employ 200 full-time people by mid-2011. Eighty employees have been offered jobs and are scheduled to start later this year to prepare for the spring opening.
Craig said the first 60 employees were chosen from among 2,700 qualified applicants.
CSX owns a transportation system, which provides rail, intermodal and rail-to-truck services that connect 70 ocean, river and lake ports, as well as 230 short line and regional railroads. Its principal operating company, CSX Transportation, Inc., has about 30,000 employees and operates the largest railroad in the eastern United States, with a 21,000-mile rail network linking commercial markets in 23 states, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces.