West Virginia’s first rail-truck intermodal facility opens for business

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The new Heartland Intermodal facility in Prichard features two half-mile yard tracks and a concrete pad that can accommodate up to 190 containers. It opened for business on Dec. 15.
Two photos, Chase Gunnoe
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – In the distance, two semis carrying containers ease into the small town of Prichard. Terminal Manager Robert Sublett and a colleague watch from a perch at the facility’s main entrance. The trucks are bound for West Virginia’s first rail-truck intermodal facility and the 40-foot containers will soon exchange road for rails.

West Virginia’s first ever rail-truck intermodal facility received its first revenue container on Dec. 15 and business is just starting. Toyota Motor Manufacturing is among  the facility’s first potential customers for shipping parts between Prichard and its plant in Buffalo, W.Va.

“Toyota Motor Manufacturing is pleased that the State of West Virginia has this new facility and we are looking into ways it could fit into our needs,” says Toyota External Affairs Specialist Sandra Maynard. Toyota manufactures engines and transmissions in Buffalo.

Situated along Norfolk Southern’s ex-Norfolk & Western main line between Columbus, Ohio, and Roanoke, Va., The Heartland Intermodal Gateway facility in Prichard is located in the center of the region's industrial development. Surrounded by businesses in eastern Kentucky, southern Ohio, and all along central and southern West Virginia, the 80-acre facility located just south of Huntington will bring new business to the rails.

Companies that now ship containers to Rickenbacker Intermodal in Columbus or the Port of Virginia in Norfolk will be able to use the Prichard facility, benefiting from reduced travel expenses and lower rail rates.

“We estimate there about 30,000 container movements annually within 100 miles of the facility,” West Virginia Port Authority Director Neal Vance tells Trains News Wire. Those businesses, along with new companies will be able to utilize the facility and Norfolk Southern’s Heartland Corridor.

From an economic standpoint, the new facility makes business development in the Charleston and Tri-State region more appealing. A Charleston-based economic, business, and community development group says the Prichard facility is an opportunity for businesses to access foreign markets a little easier.

“As we look for the need to diversify, not only is it getting their products to market easier from Charleston, but it’s a marketing edge to potential new manufacturers,” says Justin Gaull, vice president economic development at the Charleston Area Alliance.

The facility can accommodate up to 190 trucks, features two half-mile yard tracks, and is equipped with ‘Reach Stacker’ vehicles that will be able to move containers between trucks and well cars. The facility was funded through $12 million in federal grants, $18 million by the State of West Virginia, and $1 million from Norfolk Southern. The railroad also donated nearly 80 acres of land.

“This is something very new for the State of West Virginia,” Vance says. “The railroad has placed railcars for training. Employees are being trained on how to put air on the train and staged loadings." Parksec, an intermodal services company, will handle all terminal operations at the facility.

The Prichard facility is the latest initiative in Norfolk Southern’s Heartland Corridor. The Chicago to Norfolk, Va. corridor is one of the quickest routes connecting the coastal ports of Virginia with the Midwest. After tedious efforts to notch tunnels for double stack clearance beginning more than eight years ago, the corridor started running double-stack intermodal trains in September 2010.

Norfolk Southern moved more than 3.8 million intermodal units across its system in 2014, which accounted for an 8 percent volume increase in comparison to the previous year. Intermodal shipments accounted for about 22 percent of total operating revenue for the railroad in 2014.
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A double stack container train sits along the future site of the Prichard Intermodal facility during a ceremony on Sept. 13, 2010, that included presentations by then-CEO Wick Moorman and state officials.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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