Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Wednesday, 15 May 2013 10:36
NORTH BALTIMORE - The CSX rail hub in Wood County was built to be expanded in the future. But few expected the future to be so soon.
Just two years from the opening of the $175 million site in Henry Township, CSX officials plan to spend another $42 million on an expansion. Tuesday morning, CSX officials held a conference call with the Wood County Commissioners to explain their plans and seek county support for a federal grant to pay for half the project.
"We always anticipated expansion," said Rusty Orben, director of public affairs for CSX Transportation.
"We've filled the capacity a little bit faster than we thought," said Carl Warren, director of strategic infrastructure for CSX.
The 500-acre site currently employs nearly 300 people, and handles more than 30 trains a day, with an annual capacity of 2 million containers.
The proposed expansion will fit in the existing 500 acres, and will require more employees, though it is not known how many more, according to Duke Acor, the rail hub manager.3
The expansion will extend the processing area 2,300 feet to the west, and require the installation of two additional cranes. The five existing cranes are 100-feet high and span 306 feet, covering all eight tracks underneath them.
The electric cranes actually generate energy when lowering the container boxes onto different trains.
The rail hub has been described as the equivalent of an airport terminal for rail containers. Like airports, where passengers come in and get rerouted to different planes, the rail cars do the same type of shuffling with the help of massive cranes straddling eight tracks. It has been estimated that one intermodal train takes 280 semi-trucks off the highway.
"I think we have a strong story to tell about the terminal," Orben told the county commissioners. But that story will be even stronger if it has support from local governmental officials.
Orben said North Baltimore and Henry Township officials have been informed and are already on board.
"Both of them expressed pretty positive responses," Orben said.
If Wood County officials agreed to be the "public sponsor" of the grant request, "that puts us in a strong position to be awarded funding," he said.
The commissioners agreed.
Commissioner Jim Carter asked if the expansion will mean more trains using the site.
"I wouldn't anticipate a major increase of train traffic," Orben said.
But with the site's ability to handle double stacked trains, and with the entire East Coast rail system soon being able to accommodate double stacked trains, the hub may be able to process more rail boxes, he said.
"We do see the need to expand," Acor explained, adding that the hub will then be able to "build denser" trains.
"It's actually shovel ready," he said.