Norfolk Southern to build intermodal terminal at Charlotte airport

By Chuck Crumbo
Published April 25, 2012

CHARLOTTE — Construction of Norfolk Southern’s new regional intermodal facility at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport finally is taking off, so to speak.

The project, first hatched some 15 years ago, cleared its last hurdle in late March when Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx signed a lease between the city and the railroad for use of a 200-acre site to build a rail terminal.

Norfolk Southern plans to build a $74 million dollar intermodal facility near the Charlotte airport (above).
Norfolk Southern plans to build a $90 million intermodal facility near the Charlotte airport (above).
The facility, scheduled to be completed in 2014, is expected to generate $9 billion in economic impact over the next 20 years, according to an analysis cited by the mayor’s office.

“The city of Charlotte is even more in the manufacturing, distribution, transportation and economic growth business,” Foxx said in the Charlotte Business Journal. “This is a big deal.”

Norfolk Southern is investing $74 million in the terminal, and the state and federal government will pay $16 million. Norfolk Southern also agreed to pay $1 million annually in rent to the Charlotte airport. The new intermodal terminal will employ about 280.

Over the next 20 years, the terminal is projected to create 5,000 jobs in the Charlotte area. The project was first proposed in 1997 as part of the airport’s strategic development plan.

The location offers Norfolk Southern an attractive freight base because of air cargo operations at the airport, as well as the property’s access to Interstates 77 and 85. The location also links the terminal by highway to seaports at Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla.

Building the intermodal terminal is important to the Charlotte economy, officials said, citing a 2005 study by Insight Research Corp. of Dallas.

Without the expanded intermodal capacity in Charlotte, “fully 12% of the industrial development potential in the region could be at risk. These are industrial uses which are rail-intermodal dependent for their competitive supply-chain requirements,” the Insight report said.

“Another 35% of the region’s industrial development could be somewhat negatively affected by significantly higher transportation and competing site location costs, an economic outcome which would certainly be undesirable for Charlotte MSA,” the report said.

With the Norfolk Southern terminal under way, city officials are planning $43 million worth of road improvements in the area.

They anticipate the area will be developed for light manufacturing, warehousing and distribution, transportation logistics and research and development, the Charlotte Business Journal reported.

The intermodal terminal is part of Norfolk Southern’s $2.5 billion Crescent Corridor project that upgrades a 1,400-mile stretch of track from southern Pennsylvania to New Orleans. Norfolk Southern estimates that 25% of truck traffic will be taken off the roads in the Southeast and 1.3 million containers will be moved to rail.

Norfolk Southern plans to add 28 new trains daily to the Crescent Corridor, plus upgrade rail yards and terminals along the route. The project also calls for purchasing new locomotives and freight cars and building new terminals.

Charlotte is one of four cities along the Crescent Corridor route that’s getting new intermodal terminals. Also in the works are terminals at Memphis, Tenn., Birmingham, Ala., and Greencastle, Pa. Upgrades are planned for terminals in Harrisburg and Bethlehem, Pa., and the railroad plans to expand Croxton Yard near Jersey City, N.J.

Although the facility will be on airport property, airline passengers won’t see much of it from their seats.

The intermodal terminal is being built along the southern end of the airport’s center parallel runway and 40 feet beneath two taxiway bridges. Railroad tracks will extend a mile along the airfield.

So, about all folks in a plane will see are the tops of cranes lifting and moving cargo.

Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-401-1094, extension 204.

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Added: 25 Apr 2012

Great read, thanks for the article.

Greg Baer