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Rail: a key to the port’s competitiveness

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Print this page Jessica Sabbath
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Double-stacked container service from Hampton Roads to the Midwest is available.
Photo courtesy VDOT

A key to pushing more cargo through the Port of Virginia’s terminals lies in the heart of the country.

Unlike the ports of New York, Savannah and Baltimore, the Port of Virginia isn’t close to a major population hub, so it relies on its connections with the Midwest to grow. That’s why the presence of two Class 1 railroads — Norfolk Southern and CSX — is so important to the port’s future.

Currently, about 35.3 percent of port cargo moves to and from its terminals via rail.

In the middle of 2018, CSX is scheduled to complete the second phase of its Virginia Avenue Tunnel project, which provides clearances for double-stacked container trains on its tracks in Washington, D.C. That will allow CSX to open its second track for double-stacked container trains heading from Portsmouth to the Midwest. The first track opened in December 2016.

In addition, CSX opened an intermodal facility in Pittsburgh last year and began offering daily service from the Port of Virginia to Western Pennsylvania.
Norfolk Southern’s Heartland Corridor, which opened double-stack container service on its rail service between Norfolk and the Midwest in 2010, is one of the railroad’s busiest corridors for transporting international intermodal freight. The railroad is continuing to invest in capacity and throughput improvements at its inland intermodal facilities. Many of these investments include technologies that increase operating efficiencies and add capacity without expanding the terminal’s footprint.

One of the largest investments during the past year has been at the railroad’s Landers Intermodal Facility in Chicago, a key terminal for freight moving to and from the Port of Virginia. The company has added a precision box-stacking program using new rubber tire gantry cranes outfitted with technologies such as GPS, scanning sensors and optical character recognition cameras to improve vertical stacking capabilities. The goal is to cycle containers in and out of the facility more quickly and reduce the amount of time truck drivers spend at the terminal.


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