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"CSX's National Gateway initiative to include South Side rail yard"

The Columbus Dispatch

CSX Corp. plans to invest $50 million in its South Side rail yard as part of a multistate project designed to increase the flow of goods through the Midwest.

The National Gateway initiative, as the company calls it, spans six states and involves building several new rail terminals and solidifying miles of track to support double-stacked shipping containers. The result would be more goods coming to Ohio from the East Coast, the company said today.

The project would include construction of "intermodal" terminals in northwestern Ohio and at the CSX yard at Groveport Road and Parsons Avenue that allow the company to move shipping containers back and forth between rail cars and tractor-trailer trucks.

The Ohio investment is expected to total $190 million, and the projects could bring thousands of new jobs to the state by the time they are completed in 2015, the company said.

The CSX project is larger than Norfolk Southern's $150 million Heartland Corridor effort, which resulted in a new terminal accommodating both rail and over-road shipping near Rickenbacker Airport.

"I think we both see that central Ohio is a key area for logistics development in the future, and we both want to play," said CSX Chief Executive Michael J. Ward.

After decades of cutbacks and business lost to trucking companies, railroads are making a comeback thanks in part to high gasoline prices. Ward said railroads can ship a ton of freight 423 miles on one gallon of fuel and one train can carry the load of more than 280 trucks.

Gov. Ted Strickland helped CSX roll out the plan, in the works for at least a year, at the Dublin offices of Pacer International Logistics. Strickland said the state "is committed to doing its part" to build the infrastructure.

"This is a major competitive advantage that can greatly benefit the citizens of Ohio," Strickland said.

Ohio will be asked to contribute $30 million toward rebuilding rail lines, an amount that would be matched by federal funding, said Lisa Mancini, CSX vice president of strategic infrastructure initiatives. The $60 million in infrastructure improvement work in Ohio would cover 16 sites outside central Ohio.

"No one has written a check, but so far we have gotten very favorable response (in Ohio)," Mancini said.

While the expanded rail yard could give central Ohio's logistics industry a boost, the National Gateway actually bypasses Columbus. It unites the East Coast ports of Wilmington, N.C.; Portsmouth, Va.; and Baltimore, and it will send goods westward through Pittsburgh and to million terminal in New Baltimore, in northwestern Ohio.

CSX has 4,000 miles of track in Ohio, including two lines that run from Toledo to Columbus. One of them goes through Marion, where CSX opened a terminal for mixing road and rail shipping in 2006.

The project might not increase the amount of freight that moves through Columbus, but it " certainly will change the direction from which it comes and will certainly let the cargo move in its most-efficient route," said Mike Uremovich, CEO of Pacer Logistics.

CSX said it has started clearing the South Side site. Part of the project involves moving Sills Park, a 23-acre baseball field operated by Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. Parks spokeswoman Terri Leist confirmed the department has had an initial meeting with CSX about moving the diamonds nearby.

However, Mancini said, it's unclear when the new terminal will be completed. Ward said it's possible the future of CSX's West Side yard could be as an expanded "transflow" terminal, where goods are broken down into smaller shipments.

CSX said that by allowing for double-stacked container shipments, the National Gateway will enhance existing rail corridors running through Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina.

"Last year our operating income was $2.2 billion, and we put $1.7 (billion) back into the infrastructure," Ward said. "We really think it's going to be required for the long term."