On September 8th the first double-stacked container train departed the Port of Virginia’s Norfolk International Terminal via the newly completed Heartland Corridor on the Norfolk Southern Railway. While this wasn’t really considered news worthy outside of the Transportation Industry, I think it was very good news for the Port of Virginia.
This improvement makes Virginia competitive with the Port of New York/New Jersey for the handling of large volumes of containerized freight destined for the Mid-West by cutting rail transit times by two days. The Heartland Corridor is one of three similar rail projects that will further strengthen the case for the Mid-Atlantic as a cost effective location for distribution and logistics operations large and small.
The three year $300 million Heartland Corridor project was a public-private partnership between Norfolk Southern (NS), the federal government, and state agencies from Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio. The bulk of the expense was spent raising the height of 28 tunnels and removing 24 overhead obstacles along the faster, higher capacity coal lanes through the Appalachian Mountains. The improved route cuts 250 miles off the old route and allows double-stacked container trains to transit from the Mid-Atlantic to the Mid-West as fast as or faster than trains originating from New York/New Jersey. Containers loaded onto trains on the dock at the Port of Virginia can now make it to Columbus in 24 hours and to Chicago in less than 48 hours. These improvements should help the port win container volume destined for the Mid-West away from the more traditional rail route through the port of New York/New Jersey.
The improvements to rail capacity and transit times that are happening now are the beginning of what the Port of Virginia sees as a gradual shift in international shipping that will make it the premier port on the East Coast. They clearly make the port a more viable option for importers with customers in multiple markets like the Northeast, the Southeast, and now the Mid-West. It also makes the port viable for manufacturers in the Mid-West importing foreign made components or raw materials. Pair these new advantages with the already shorter over the road transit times to metropolitan destinations in the south and to the District of Columbia, and the Port of Virginia is an attractive choice for importers of all sizes.
Check out Norfolk Southern’s Video for more info on the Heartland Corridor project.
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