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$9.7M released for South Toledo rail yard expansion

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Regional Transportation District A state agency has given a green signal to a $12.3-million expansion of a Norfolk Southern rail yard in South Toledo, Ohio, a project intended to boost the region's capacity for handling intermodal freight and generate hundreds of transportation-sector jobs, the Toledo Blade reports.

The Ohio Rail Development
Commission said it had given notice to proceed on the project, thus releasing
nearly $9.7 million in state and federal grants and loans to expand and
reconfigure the Airline Junction Intermodal Terminal to improve capacity and
reduce congestion.

Extended tracks, new
signals and new equipment and machinery for the terminal are all part of the
plans. The rail development commission said its announcement gives Norfolk
Southern the authority to buy construction materials with grant and loan funds.

"This project
streamlines our intermodal operations in Toledo and improves the efficiency of
Airline Yard," Bob Huffman, Norfolk Southern’s vice president of
intermodal operations, said in a statement. "With the anticipated demand
to move freight by rail nearly doubling over the next 20 years, these
public-private partnerships benefit our nation’s transportation
infrastructure."

"I’m pleasantly
satisfied that this is going to be a very important step for the city of Toledo
in the transportation industry," said D. Michael Collins, a city
councilman whose district borders the rail yard. "This is our first
opportunity to develop and prove that we have a niche in transportation and
logistics."

Exactly when work will
begin was not announced.

"We don’t have a schedule
yet," said Rudy Husband, a Norfolk Southern spokesman.

The funding package
includes a $6.5 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,
$2.75 million from the Ohio Department of Development Logistics and Distribution
Stimulus Loan Program and $425,000 in rail development commission Safety
Section funds. Norfolk Southern’s $2.6-million contribution includes credit for
track and signal improvements near the Airline Yard in recent years.

The project will include
rerouting the east end of a rail spur that passes through the University of
Toledo campus, Ottawa Hills and Sylvania so that it enters the west end of the
rail yard instead of the middle. Railroad crossings on Westwood Avenue, Dorr
Street, Parkside Boulevard and Nebraska Avenue will be removed when this work
is done.

It also will involve
closing Westwood Avenue between South and Hill avenues. This closing had been
scheduled to occur in March, but Collins said the city delayed it, which led to
a delay in the release of the grant funds.

A study released late in
2008 by a local task force predicted that expansion of the Airline Junction
facility could generate 900 or more jobs, with a payroll estimated at $25.6 million,
in and around the terminal. Most of those jobs would be in trucking or
warehousing, while the expanded terminal itself would have a relatively low
employment impact.

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