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CSXT to revamp some eastern Ohio rails, bridges

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A nearly $850,000 million public and private effort to connect mid-Atlantic ports to Midwest U.S. population and manufacturing markets using double-stack trains has railroad improvement projects scheduled for Trumbull and Mahoning counties, according to the Warren, Ohio, Tribune Chronicle. What's going to be done locally includes bridge replacement and other projects necessary to provide the vertical clearance to allow train cars hauling two shipping containers stacked on top of one another.

It’s part of a larger CSX
Transportation initiative to more efficiently ship goods from east coast ports
as they anticipate a large increase in freight traffic in the next decade, said
railroad company spokesman Bob Sullivan.

”The idea is to increase
the efficiency of rail by creating this corridor that will enable us to utilize
existing technology, but very efficient and effective technology that allows us
to stack shipping containers two high,” Sullivan said.

The effort would decrease
pollution and fuel use by reducing the amount of freight traveling on Midwest
U.S. highways, Sullivan said.

In Niles, the steel and wooden
Fifth Street bridge will be replaced to provide the necessary clearance.

Rusty Orben, director of
Public Affairs for Ohio CSXT, said the project is among nine replacement or
improvement projects included in the CSXT initiative that’s being paid for with
$20 million in federal economic stimulus dollars. Work on the projects is set
to begin next year, he said.

It was decided to replace
the structure because lowering the tracks was not geologically feasible,
removing it permanently drew concern from safety services and raising the
existing bridge drew worry because of its age. It made more sense to replace a
more than 100-year-old bridge, Orben said.

”At the end of the day,
you still would have a single-lane bridge that was built in 1904,” Orben said.

CSXT requires bridges to be
built with 23 feet of clearance to accommodate the double-stack trains.

There are 17 included
projects in the CSX plan: Nine bridge replacement or improvement projects and
the rest, mostly track-lowering projects, Orben said.

Other local projects
include replacing the Rock Springs Road bridge and building a rail interlock in
Newton Falls and removing portions of an abandoned railroad bridge between
Northwest Avenue and the Mahoning River in Youngstown.

The last clearance project
is in Ashland County. Farther west, the system already can accommodate the
double-stack trains, Orben said.

Sullivan said the
initiative is a public/private combination and CSXT is contributing $395
million. The rest, a combination of state and federal grants, will allow CSXT
to prepare for increased train volume and simultaneously, benefit the areas
where the improvements are happening, Sullivan said.

In Ohio, it’s estimated the
public benefits would be $1.8 billion.

”We’re making a
substantial investment and it is with the benefit of public investment,”
Sullivan said. ”We’re able to do that much more and the public is able to get
that much more benefit out of it.’

Of the $842-million project,
about $395 million is for clearance projects, including about $172 million to
improve the Virginia Avenue tunnel in Washington D.C. About $447 million is
terminal construction and improvement, Orben said.

In the summer, work began
on a new intermodal terminal in North Baltimore to serve as a distribution hub.

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