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NS ready to break ground on Memphis terminal

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Norfolk Southern is about to clear the final hurdle needed to begin work on its Rossville intermodal terminal, where cargo containers will be transferred between trucks and trains, The Memphis Daily News reports. The Norfolk, Va.-based railroad, which is preparing to formally break ground on the massive $112-million project, will unveil the federally mandated environmental assessment that was recently approved in preparation for the facility.

As part of that process,
the Tennessee and Mississippi departments of transportation, along with the
Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will host a
join National Environmental Policy Act hearing Aug. 2. The public will have a
chance to comment on the approved EA before the document is finalized and work
on the facility can begin.

Norfolk Southern is
developing the yard, dubbed the Memphis Regional Intermodal Terminal, on 570
acres of land it bought from insurance mogul William Adair in a recently
annexed section of Rossville. The railroad is looking to increase capacity in
the Memphis area as part of its $2.5-billion "Crescent Corridor," a
2,500-mile network of rail lines stretching from the Southeast to the

With only a small facility
near the Mid-South Fairgrounds called Forrest Yard, Norfolk Southern had been
looking to expand its intermodal capacity in the area for a few years. The new
facility, slated to open in 2012, will be able to accommodate more than 327,000
containers and trailers annually, and more than 2,000 parked containers and
trailers on chasses.

Highlights from the
360-page EA include details on the terminal’s physical infrastructure, which
will feature tracks connecting the yard with Norfolk Southern’s main line that
runs parallel with Tenn. 57; six 4,500-foot-long pad tracks and 34,500 feet of
supporting track within the yard; paved areas where 2,200 trucks can park; and
administration and maintenance buildings.

The EA also mentions the
alternative sites that Norfolk Southern said it considered for the terminal,
specifically land north of Tenn. 57. That property, called the
"Windyke" site, would have placed all truck traffic on that 57
instead of U.S. 72, the highway that will absorb all truck traffic under the
current plan.

According to the EA — as
well as numerous other parties, including the Wolf River Conservancy — the
environmental impact of the chosen site will be far less than Windyke, which
sits close to the Wolf River.

Despite the railroad’s and
government’s claims that the Adair site will create a smaller environmental
footprint than the Windyke site, some residents are leery. And if next month’s
public meeting is anything like the preliminary environmental hearing held last
fall, officials from TDOT, MDOT and Norfolk Southern are in for some heated

In October, a restless
crowd of more than 50 crammed into the Bank of Fayette County in Piperton and
peppered officials from TDOT and AMEC Earth & Environmental, the project’s
environmental consultant, with questions about the terminal. Residents took
issue, as they have since the project was formally announced a year ago — and
even since it was uncovered by The Daily News in early 2009 — with the
facility’s size and volume, as well as its potential for unprecedented noise
and light pollution in South Fayette County. Despite their concerns, the
project appears to be on track, as does a neighboring development in
conjunction with the terminal.

Adair, who owns about 3,000
acres of surrounding land, is building an access road that will link the
intermodal facility to U.S. 72 in Marshall County, Miss., and he also has begun
work on a mixed-use development called Piperton Hills adjacent to the yard. The
sprawling residential and commercial subdivision is about to get off the
ground, with Adair’s company, WCA Land & Development, wrapping up work on a
water treatment system and preparing to perform site work for the community’s
first single-family homes.

As for the EA, it was
approved by the Federal Railroad Administration July 8.

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