Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Editorial: Americans are building their future

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(The following editorial appeared on the Charleston Daily Mail Website.)

Americans have read a lot of negative news in the past few years about the economy of the nation they love. It would be easy to become discouraged and pessimistic.

That would be a mistake.

The American drive to rethink things, find advantages, and improve efficiency is alive and well, and Daily Mail Business Editor George Hohmann found it in practice while doing a recent story about the $151-million Heartland Corridor Project. The corridor will let Norfolk Southern run double-stacked rail containers between Chicago and Hampton Roads, Va., cutting no less than 233 miles and a day's travel time off that route.

Such a staggering increase in efficiency should produce far-reaching benefits. It will present an alternative to trucks and cut congestion on roads.

But accommodating double-stacked containers means raising the roofs of 28 tunnels along the route, 24 of them along Norfolk Southern's "N" line in this state. The containers are 20 feet, 3 inches tall, and the railroad wants a 9-inch cushion in addition to that.

And so, during a recession, LRL Construction of Tillamook, Ore., and Johnson Western Constructors of San Leandro, Calif., find themselves hard at it in Southern West Virginia, using largely local crews, many of them with mining experience. R.J. Corman Railroad Construction of Nicholasville, Ky., is also working on the project.

The West Virginia Public Port Authority is also building an $18-million terminal at Prichard in Wayne County, on 78 acres of land donated by Norfolk Southern.

How this project will change economic life along the length of the line will not become fully apparent for years to come.

But that future is being built, a heartening development indeed.

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