The improvements also will provide Norfolk Southern with the potential to connect Ohio Valley markets to other major East Coast container ports.
The Heartland Connector project is a public-private partnership among Norfolk Southern, Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Rail Development Commission and Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Council of Governments to upgrade the NS rail line to accommodate double-stack trains. Previously, containers only could be single-stacked on trains moving over the connector.
The project included raising clearances at five locations along the 124-mile route between Cincinnati and Columbus and adding tracks at Norfolk Southern's Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal near Columbus. Prior to the upgrades, double-stack intermodal trains leaving the Port of Virginia for Cincinnati and Detroit followed longer routes through Tennessee or Pennsylvania. Now, double-stack trains bound for Detroit use a route that is 212 miles shorter, and trains traveling to Cincinnati travel 69 fewer miles and save up to two days transit time.
Financial support for the $6.1 million project included $3.6 million from the federal government combined with matching contributions from Norfolk Southern and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Council of Governments.
"The Rail Commission is very happy to have been able to facilitate this very important infrastructure project that builds on previous investments and further solidifies Ohio's position in the global supply chain," said Matthew Dietrich, executive director of the Ohio Rail Development Commission.
"Routing trains over the Heartland Connector improves transit times and allows Norfolk Southern to provide more reliable service and handle additional intermodal freight," said Jeff Heller, NS group vice president international intermodal marketing. "The Heartland Connector is significant for the Port of Virginia because it increases the efficiency of the Heartland Corridor to move goods to and from Ohio and other Midwest consumer markets and adds to the competitiveness of the Hampton Roads region."