“One train can carry the load of more than 280 trucks.”
If you live near a railroad, you see them every day, flat cars with semi-trailers secured to the deck, or shipping containers stacked two-high. They’re moving freight that isn’t clogging our highways and polluting the air with excess hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide and particulates produced by over-the road trucks.
So says the CSX Railroad, a major carrier of goods in the mid-Atlantic shipping corridor, now positioning itself for $700 million in system improvements. The program is called National Gateway, a project the railroad says will create a more efficient flow of rail traffic between Mid-Atlantic ports and Midwestern markets.
Costs and Funding of National Gateway
CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan, in a podcast interview posted on Planetsave, said the railroad is committing $300 million toward construction of key intermodal terminals in Wood County and South Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
CSX says the terminals will provide a more efficient means of transferring shipping containers and semi-trailers to trucks for local or regional distribution in three major corridors:
- I-95 Corridor between North Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland via Washington D.C.
- 1-70/I-76 Corridor between Washington, D.C. and northwest Ohio via Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
- Carolina Corridor between Wilmington and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Sullivan said the other $400 million will hopefully come from what they term a public-private partnership, relying on funding from states and private industry in their coverage area. He said the State of Ohio has welcomed the project, but funding from the state has not yet been established.
79 Barriers to Double-Stack Freight Movement
The railroad has pinpointed 79 bridges or tunnels that will need modification before CSX locomotives can transport double-stacked cars.
Sullivan said some bridges and tunnels may only have to be “notched out” to allow the taller traffic, others may have to be raised, or the railroad road bed my need to be lowered.
He said the project will provide $8 in public benefits for every $1 of public money invested.
Once completed, possibly by 2015, CSX will be positioned to carry more intermodal freight between the midwest and mid-Atlantic ports, which they believe will receive more traffic upon completion of the Panama Canal Upgrade project now underway.
Currently, the canal can handle ships carrying no more than 5,000 containers. After completion of the upgrade, ships with 12,000 containers on board will be able to use the canal, increasing the amount of freight potentially reaching mid-Atlantic ports. CSX wants to be ready to handle the increased traffic.
Environmental Impact of Rail vs Long-Haul Truck Shipments
“Trains can move a ton of freight 423 miles on a single gallon of fuel.”
“Rail is the safest mode of ground freight transportation.”
“Shifting 10% of long-haul freight from the highway to the railway would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 12 million tons.”
“Railroads are the most environmentally-friendly and energy efficient way to move goods on land.”
Quotes from the CSX National Gateway website.
The website contains a Carbon Calculator, a handy tool for those interested in calculating the difference a shipper makes by choosing rail. The calculator, according to the railroad, was developed by CSX and is provided for estimating purposes only. Actual emissions savings may vary based on routing and other factors.
Is Biodiesel in the Future for CSX?
In a word, no, at least not now according to Mr. Sullivan. He did say he’d heard of some research into the issue, but was unable to comment.
The CSX website has a section addressing it’s Environmental Stewardship that explains, in company terms, system and equipment improvements that would seem to exclude the use of biofuels in their locomotives.
Photo from CSX
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