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CSX to Begin $724M Double-Stack Initiative to Lift Service

The Jacksonville Business Journal (FL)

What's happening?

CSX Corp. is gearing up its $724 million public-private infrastructure initiative to create an efficient freight railroad link between Mid-Atlantic ports and the Midwest.

Why does it matter?

By improving its rails, the railroad company will be able to double-stack transportation containers on the rail cars on routes from east to west, thus saving fuel, cutting down on pollution and increasing train use. Double-stacking means stacking one container on top of another.

What's driving it?

Because of increased traffic through the Suez Canal, Mid-Atlantic ports are receiving more cargo, and are expected to receive even more when expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in 2014. Plus, the weaker dollar is boosting manufacturing in the Midwest, creating a need for better routes back to the East Coast.

Lastly, competitor Norfolk Southern Corp. has launched a similar initiative to open up the Midwest to Mid-Atlantic ports.

Aside from expanding and adding new terminals, what else needs to be done?

Overpasses and bridges will have to be raised, and tunnels will need to be bored out to allow the taller double-stacked trains to pass through.

Where is the funding coming from?

CSX is investing $362 million of its own money, and it is expecting the federal government and involved state governments together to match it.

What is the likelihood of the federal government and state governments kicking in?

Good, considering the government agencies realize the economic impact potential of strengthening the rail infrastructure. Plus, the rising cost of diesel fuel is making rail transport more attractive.

What's the time frame?

The initiative kicked off last year and is expected to be completed in 2015.

Key to getting the necessary federal funding is the Highway Authorization Bill in 2010. Construction will begin in 2010.

How is CSX working to get the government agencies involved?

CSX has been in talks with the involved states' transportation departments and various congressional staff members. The most promising news came several weeks ago, when Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland announced he was trying to secure funding for his state's share.

How would the initiative make freight transport safer?

It would increase the amount of cargo that could be shipped by rail, which is the safest mode of ground transportation.

Fewer trucks on the road translate to less congestion and less chance of accidents.

CSX estimates states would see up to $251 million in safety cost savings over 10 years because of the shift.

What does a railway expert think of the initiative?

It's a good idea because it will allow CSX to be "coastally agnostic," Anthony Hatch, ABH Consulting principal, said.

The current administration hasn't been supportive enough of improving the country's railway system, Hatch said, but both presumptive presidential candidates are expected to be more helpful.