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Rendell backs rail upgrades

December 06, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The CSX Intermodal Facility south of Chambersburg, which opened in the fall of 2007, will become part of the National Gateway, a proposal for a public-private partnership to improve three rail corridors for increased freight transportation from East Coast ports to the Midwest.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell on Friday put state funding behind the project - $35 million over the next three years that will be used to change clearances of railway tunnels and bridges to allow for double-stacked container freight shipments through the state.

CSX's share in the Pennsylvania portion of the project is $98 million, including $48 million already spent on the Chambersburg facility, said Lisa Mancini, the vice president for Strategic Infrastructure Initiatives. The balance will be spent on another intermodal facility near Pittsburgh, CSX Chief Executive Officer Michael Ward said.

Double stacking the containers will save hundreds of millions of gallons of oil a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4 million tons a year while taking the equivalent of 2 million truckloads of freight off the highways.

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"Increasingly, railroads and trucks are working together" with trucks being used for short hauls to and from facilities where cargo containers are loaded and unloaded on and off rail cars, Ward said.

"How quickly we can move goods into the country and out of the country is a key to our economic future, Rendell said. The top 10 ports in China move 3 1/2 times the freight of America's 10 busiest ports, he said.

While Ohio's governor endorsed the project in May, Mancini said Pennsylvania is the first state to indicate it will provide financial backing. Support is being sought from Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, Ward said.

CSX would put up half of the $724 million, Mancini said. The remaining $362 million would be split with $181 million from the federal government and $181 million from the six states.

Federal money could be included in the next year's highway reauthorization bill, said U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th, a member of the House Transportation Subcommittee on Railroads.

The three corridors that would be improved are along the Interstate 95 corridor between North Carolina and Baltimore; the I-76 corridor between Washington, D.C., and northwest Ohio through Pittsburgh; and between Wilmington, N.C., and Charlotte, N.C.

"President-elect Obama gets it," Rendell said of plans for an economic stimulus package that includes funding for roads, bridges and rail lines. The governor said later the package "will be very substantial, $100 billion or more."

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