Our Key Public-Private Partnerships
Our 2,500-mile Crescent Corridor improvement project is the railroad’s largest corridor undertaking. It is the centerpiece of our business strategy to convert domestic freight transportation from highway to intermodal rail, with all the environmental, economic, and social benefits associated with rail. We saw a 21 percent increase in traffic volume over the Crescent Corridor in 2012 vs. 2011.
The corridor improvements are significantly increasing the capacity for U.S. intermodal freight, one of the railroad’s most promising growth markets. The corridor offers the shortest intermodal double-stack route between the South and the Northeast, forming a national rail network that spans 11 states from New Orleans, La., and Memphis, Tenn., to northern New Jersey. The route provides truck-competitive service along several major interstate highways, including I-81, I-85, I-20, I-40, I-59, I-78, and I-75.
By the end of 2012, we had completed the first phase of improvements. The big news in 2012 was the opening of two new regional intermodal terminals — at Rossville, Tenn., near Memphis and at McCalla, Ala., near Birmingham. In early 2013, we opened a third terminal in south central Pennsylvania, at Greencastle.
The new terminals feature high-tech touches such as automated gate systems with digital cameras and scanners that speed the flow of truckers who move containers and trailers between the facilities and a customer’s door. Results are that trucks idle less, drivers are more productive, and fuel costs and emissions are reduced.
By 2014, we plan to open another corridor terminal in Charlotte, N.C., and major expansions at two intermodal facilities in Harrisburg, Pa. In addition, we are investing in track infrastructure improvements to add passing tracks, straighten curves, and install signals to streamline the movement of freight across the corridor.
As a testament to the corridor’s economic and environmental benefits, the project has been endorsed by leading business associations in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia and by conservation-minded groups such as the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, A Greener Gulf Coast, the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, and the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Independent studies conducted for the railroad estimate that the corridor, when fully developed, has the potential to:
- divert more than 1 million long-haul trucks from interstate highways along the route
- save more than 160 million gallons of fuel annually
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.9 million tons
- create or preserve more than 70,000 jobs by 2030
- avoid more than $100 million in accident costs
- save more than $500 million in costs associated with traffic congestion
- save more than $90 million in highway maintenance
The Heartland Corridor, completed in fall 2010, was the rail industry’s first multistate public-private partnership. It is the flagship corridor for our international intermodal business, creating a shorter, more efficient route for moving international freight on double-stack trains between Virginia port terminals and Midwest consumer markets.
The project was one of the most challenging railroad engineering feats in modern times. The route passes through the Appalachian Mountains; clearing it for trains moving containers that are double-stacked involved raising the vertical clearance of 28 tunnels and removing 24 overhead obstructions. The improvements shaved about 250 miles and a day of transit time off a more circuitous route we had been using.
The corridor is producing benefits for customers, the public, and our company. With a shorter transit time, we’re saving on equipment costs because the turnover on railcars and locomotives is faster. By eliminating about 25 percent of the miles off the former double-stack route, we’re burning less fuel and reducing locomotive greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2012, traffic volume on the corridor increased by 26 percent over 2011. Early in the year, we expanded the corridor’s reach by opening the Heartland Connector, providing for the first time double-stack capability between Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio. The improvements have improved service reliability and transit time of double-stack freight moving from Virginia ports to Cincinnati and Detroit. The additional capacity makes it possible for us to connect Ohio Valley markets to other major East Coast container ports.
Many new business possibilities arise from linking the Heartland to our other primary corridors. For example, we now can move double-stack trains between the Midwest and Mexico via the Heartland Connector, the Crescent Corridor, and the Meridian Speedway. In addition, we can move freight between Dallas, Texas, and the Northeast by linking the Meridian Speedway and the Crescent Corridor.
The Heartland Corridor supports a national goal to grow U.S. export volumes. As global economic conditions improve, we expect business on the corridor to continue to grow, particularly after the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2014, enabling larger ships to call on East Coast ports. Increased use of the Suez Canal by international container ships offers another avenue of growth.
Known by its acronym, the $3.2 billion Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation Efficiency project is designed to reduce rail and highway congestion and add freight and passenger capacity in the metropolitan Chicago area. The CREATE partnership involves the U.S. Department of Transportation; the Illinois Department of Transportation; Chicago; the six largest North American freight rail carriers, including Norfolk Southern; and two passenger carriers, Amtrak and Metra.
Chicago is one of the nation’s busiest and most congested rail intersections, with 2,800 route miles of track and about 500 freight and 800 passenger trains passing through daily. It is a key interchange point for domestic and international freight rail traffic moving to and from the East and West coasts. It’s also a bustling hub for Amtrak passenger rail service and Metra commuter trains. Currently, freight and passenger trains share many of the same rail lines, often leading to traffic conflicts and delays.
The CREATE improvements, financed by the railroads and public partners, target 70 rail and highway infrastructure projects, including 40 that will reduce delays for Amtrak and Metra passenger trains. Some of the major projects, such as the so-called Englewood Flyover, will separate freight and passenger trains to eliminate conflicts and congestion. Other projects will separate rail and highway traffic, resulting in reduced fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for rail and vehicle users.
To date, investment in CREATE projects has reduced freight rail delays by more than 25 percent and passenger rail delays by a third.
Memberships in associations and/or national/international advocacy organizations.