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Thursday, September 17, 2009

CSXT rolls out Bessemer, Ala., hub without hubbub seen in McCalla

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CSX Transportation began operating a railroad hub in Bessemer, Ala., the week of Sept. 14 without any of the hullabaloo that a planned Norfolk Southern hub has stirred up down the tracks in McCalla, Ala., according to the Birmingham News. CSXT received the first train Sept. 14 at the $6-million container-loading terminal on 25 acres in the Interstate Industrial Park.

The CSXT facility pales in comparison to the 316-acre, $112-million hub Norfolk Southern has planned for McCalla -- but it's near homes and a school, just like the Norfolk Southern site. The CSXT hub has about 5,000 feet of track with parking for 300 containers or trailers. The Norfolk Southern plan in McCalla calls for 13,000 feet of loading track and parking spaces for 1,440 containers or trailers.

While the CSXT hub is surrounded by homes, and only railroad tracks and trees separate it from Charles F. Hard Elementary, there has been no public outcry like that in McCalla. No group has emerged to voice concern about what the facility will mean to students, as has happened in McCalla, where residents have objected to the Norfolk Southern's site proximity to McAdory Elementary School.

"This one had great political support locally and we certainly appreciate that." said Gary Sease, a spokesman for Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSXT.

Instead, the focus of the CSXT project is centering on the benefits the facility could have on the 116-acre Interstate Industrial Park and the 750,000 square feet of vacant space among the one million square feet of warehouses there.

"It's going to enable Alabama manufacturers to connect to the ports of Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., on the East Coast," Sease said. "We're excited about it and looking forward to building business there as the economy comes back."

Jack Brown and Ogden Deaton of Graham & Co. manage and lease space in the Interstate Industrial Park and worked to land the CSXT terminal, where shipping containers from trucks can be loaded onto trains, and vice versa. They expect the hub to draw interest from companies wanting to ship products by rail.

The CSXT facility has been under construction for the past several months, even before NS officially announced its hub plans in McCalla in July.

On July 31, CSXT signed a deal with Birmingham Southern Railroad Co. to use tracks going into the industrial park. In its application with the Surface Transportation Board, CSXT said "the purpose of the trackage rights is to enable CSXT to improve direct intermodal container access to and from Mercedes-Benz."

Sease said the Mercedes plant in Vance is a primary customer for the hub, but the company is also open to other companies shipping through the facility.

"We've got several clients there and that is one of them," he said.

The space for the CSXT hub is leased to a company that contracts to handle the facility. That company invested more than $6 million to prepare the site.

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