West Virginia's only intermodal terminal to close for lack of traffic, infrastructure upgrades

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PRICHARD, W.Va. — After three and a half years, West Virginia wants out of its Heartland Intermodal Gateway in Wayne County.

The West Virginia Port Authority board has authorized negotiating short-term leasing of the 100-acre facility with the intent of selling it at auction within a year, according to Transport Topics.

Once touted as a key element for rural economic develop, the $32 million facility, opened in late 2015, is the state’s only intermodal terminal. Its rail connection, Norfolk Southern, which donated most of the land, says that unless the terminal generates 15,000 containers per year, service will end in October.

May’s container count was 68, according to Byrd White, state transportation secretary.

Besides the Virginia-Chicago rail connection, the terminal was to be linked with a planned four-lane highway joining it to Interstate 64 and, following two miles of dredging of the Big Sandy River, it was also to serve barge traffic.

But the highway remains in the planning state and “at present, we couldn’t afford to dredge a bathtub,” Byrd says.

Also, the terminal’s main customer, Toyota Motor Co., only uses 20-foot containers. Since local lumber shippers need 40-foot containers, there is an ongoing shortage of those units.

Following $500,000 annual losses, Governor Jim Justice budgeted nothing for Heartland in 2019 to 2020, meaning funds will run out in mid-August.

White says private entities could possibly be profitable at the terminal site but resuming its operation as an intermodal facility is unlikely for a long time.

White says the state is negotiating with two entities to buy or run Heartland, according to a columnist for Charleston, W.Va.’s, West Virginia Metro News.
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