Norfolk Southern intermodal facility may be a bust for West Virginia

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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During the excitement and anticipation associated with Norfolk Southern’s Heartland Corridor project, a new intermodal facility was opened in Wayne County, West Virginia, just to the west of Charleston. The Charleston Gazette-Mail is reporting that the excitement of those days has faded to frustration and doom during the four years the facility has been open.

The state of West Virginia contributed $18 million to the $32 million facility which opened in December 2015. The results have been disappointing, but there is disagreement as to why. The state has an Oversight Commission on Transportation Accountability (OCTA) which, according to Commission president Robert Pasley, has had no say in the intermodal complex. He did say, though, that the Commission was invited to meetings about the facility which consisted of “back slapping and happy handing and everything about how great it was.”

State Transportation Secretary Byrd White said when the facility opened, Norfolk Southern expected there to be at least 15,000 lifts of containers, but for the 2018-2019 budget year, there were only 579 lifts. And, the revenue generated by the facility between December 2015 to September 2019, which costs the state more than $500,000 per year to operate, was only $30,797.00.

Yesterday, state Sen. Robert Plymale (D-Wayne) said that Norfolk Southern officials should meet with the OCTA before the state auctions off the facility. He said “They owe it to the state of West Virginia, and they owe it to Wayne County. I think an intermodal facility can work there.” Plymale’s sentiments were echoed by two Wayne County commissioners, but said only if the facility is operated efficiently and aggressively promoted. Pasely, Commission president, said “this administration and the previous administration failed miserably to do due diligence to market this facility. Not only do they not have customers, they never even contacted customers in the Pritchard Industrial Park and other local customers that would have used this facility.” Pasely added that “We want to see a working intermodal facility there. We want those jobs it will bring, and we want to see the spin-offs that will be created by such a facility.”

Regardless of the debate, Norfolk Southern cut off access to the facility in October because of the paucity of traffic. Unless something changes, the state is planning to auction off the intermodal complex, which is expected to yield only $1 to $2 million.

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