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George Hohman: Intermodal terminal is good news

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's admission ticket to the logistics big league was punched Aug. 30 when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and state Secretary of Transportation Paul Mattox announced that Mountaineer Contractors Inc. of Kingwood had been awarded a $27.4 million contract to build an intermodal terminal.

The terminal will be built at Prichard, on the Big Sandy River in Wayne County. It will allow the transfer of containers from rail cars to trucks and vice versa. It will give West Virginia the opportunity to reap the rewards of the $249 million Heartland Corridor, which allows Norfolk Southern to transport double-stacked containers on its Pocahontas Line through Southern West Virginia, providing a shortcut between Columbus, Ohio, and the Port of Virginia in Norfolk.

The Heartland Corridor required the raising of 28 tunnels to allow rail cars loaded with double-stacked containers to pass through. The corridor began operating two years ago but West Virginia won't benefit much until the Prichard terminal opens in late 2014.

Doug York, executive director of the West Virginia Public Port Authority, said the terminal will give shippers who are within a 150-mile radius a viable alternative to the closest currently existing intermodal terminals, which are at Columbus, Ohio, and Luray, Va.

The terminal will make it cheaper for shippers to move products to Columbus, Chicago and points west. It also will make West Virginia a gathering spot for shipments headed overseas -- especially those headed through the Panama Canal.

A Panama Canal expansion project, also scheduled for completion in late 2014, will more than double the waterway's capacity and will result in a shift in trade patterns. Along the East Coast, harbors are being dredged and rail lines are being expanded to accommodate the bigger ships that will traverse the canal.

York said, "The terminal allows West Virginia to compete in the regional and eventually the global marketplace. It will also result in less traffic on our interstates and save shippers time and money."

It has been estimated that the terminal could eventually spark the creation of up to 1,000 jobs in the region and take up to 350 trucks a day off of the region's roads.

The terminal was estimated to cost $35 million. Mountaineer Contractors' winning $27.4 million bid was the lowest.

There are two terminal construction funding sources: A $12 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant and a tax enacted by the Legislature in 2008 that brings in about $4.2 million a year to enhance intermodal facilities throughout the state.

Terminal components include an access road, two 2,400-foot-long sections of railroad track, more than 190 trailer parking spaces (where containers may be stacked up to four high), 14 employee parking spaces, lighting, fencing, landscaping and a security system.

In addition to the construction contract, Norfolk Southern donated 78 acres for the project. and, in June 2011, the state awarded a $6.5 million contract to Wayne Concrete Co. of Barboursville for construction of a bridge that will improve truck access to the site.

Reach George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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