Friday, May 14, 2010

CSXT hub takes shape in North Baltimore, Ohio

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Stretching nearly four miles from east to west, the rail hub near North Baltimore will be largest CSX Transportation site for the shuffling of rail containers, the Sun Sentinel reports. Wood and Henry County officials took a tour of the sprawling site sitting on 500 acres running on the north side of Ohio 18, just outside North Baltimore.

"This is the crown jewel of our network," CSXT spokesperson Dan Murphy said of the $175-million site. "This is a rail Autobahn for us."

Murphy described the hub 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 will 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, Murphy said.

As the small bus crawled through the intermodal hub, the passengers marveled at the work that had already been done and the work that is planned in the near future. They passed mountains of rail ties waiting to be laid, railroad cars delivering stretches of rail and workers welding together some of the 24 miles of track that will cover the site.

Of the 500 acres, CSXT will initially use 280 acres. The railroad's next largest hub is 250 acres in Bedford Park in Chicago.

An earthen berm already lines Route 18. A concrete plant has been erected on site. Two 250,000-gallon diesel fuel tanks are being built. And several retention ponds have been constructed, with the excavated dirt being used to elevate the remaining 500 acres by 3.5 feet, according to Jim Caffrey, resident engineer with Jacobs Engineering.

"This will be a very busy area just a few weeks from now," Caffrey said, pointing to the area where the towering cranes will be erected.

The five cranes are scheduled to arrive in the port of Toledo in June. The 100-feet high cranes will span 306 feet, covering all eight tracks underneath them. The electric cranes, which will be nearly silent, actually generate energy when lowering the container boxes onto different trains.

"We're doing a lot to make this a green facility," Murphy said.

A $6-million crane simulator is being constructed on site to train employees how to use the real cranes, Caffrey explained.

Construction of the hub is expected to be complete by the end of December, with the site being operational by April.

Now local and state officials are working on improvements to Route 18 and widening of Interstate 75. The county commissioners approved a resolution asking the state to widen I-75 to three lanes to make room for all the additional traffic expected with the rail hub.

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