Railroad tunnels being expanded
Several readers have wondered about construction work around the Stuart Railroad Tunnel near Hansrote in western Morgan County.
Morgan Messenger columnist Dan Stiles described
“a regular parade of heavy dump trucks on the abandoned railroad bed and heavy equipment going in and out of the tunnel in early December.”
The tunnel is being upgraded as part of a CSX project called the National Gateway.
The project involves improving bridges and tunnels on rail lines between the Midwest and East Coast seaports to allow double-stacked container cars on intermodal freight trains to pass.
The job requires increasing the vertical clearance of the tunnels and work on tracks and drainage in the railroad’s right-of-way.
In addition to Stuart Tunnel, Randolph Tunnel near Doe Gully and Carothers Tunnel in Paw Paw are also scheduled for upgrades.
When the project was announced last year, CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan said work would begin on the tunnels in Morgan County near the end of 2011 and continue into 2012.
Asked for an update Sullivan said, “The work on the Carothers, Stuart and Randolph tunnels began in July and is expected to be completed by early next fall. The work will be going on at all three tunnels concurrently.”
National Gateway Project
The aim of the project is to speed freight between the East Coast ports of Baltimore, Md., Norfolk, Va. and Wilmington, North Carolina and the Midwest, and all points in between. The project affects Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.
The rail lines being improved run along the I-76/I-70 corridor and the I-95 corridor.
About $60 million will be spent in West Virginia to improve CSX rights-of-way with $5 million of that cost coming from the state coffers, said Patrick Donovan of the West Virginia Port Authority.
“Intermodal ports are critical to the economy,” Donovan said.
Donovan explained that shipping today, both nationally and internationally, depends on the movement of containers.
Large seaports are overloaded, so intermodal terminal facilities are being built to handle containers more efficiently.
Since CSX is a bonded carrier, containers are shipped by rail from seaports to intermodal ports where U.S. Customs agents inspect products as they are unloaded from containers before they are loaded onto trucks for distribution. An intermodal port services a radius of about 350 miles.
“We have an intermodal terminal working in Chambersburg and one to be built in Pittsburgh,” Sullivan said.
Although no new terminal is scheduled for West Virginia, “we get all the benefits of the intermodal system without the costs,” Donovan said.
“The project will open up opportunities for business because a lot more freight will be moving over the next 15 to 20 years. A single intermodal train is equivalent to 180 trucks,” Sullivan said.
For West Virginia, that means it will be easier and cheaper to get products to market.
According to CSX, one of the main benefits of the National Gateway Project is reduction of truck traffic on state and interstate highways.
Every rail car trip eliminates “approximately three truck trips from congested highways,” according to the company.
“This is not competing with trucks, this is about doing it more efficiently,” Sullivan said.
Other benefits include creating new jobs, less maintenance on highways and reducing fuel consumption and pollution.