I-81 Freight Rail Study and Norfolk Southern Cresent Corridor compared and contrasted in new paper for CTB
Because both are rail intermodal efforts
affecting the I-81 Corridor, there has been public confusion over
what these two projects are and how they differ. In a new paper
prepared for the Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting in Roanoke
on November 7, RAIL Solution details the differences and highlights
some curious ways the new NS direction departs from the vision of
its own CEO, Wick Moorman (2nd item below).
"I-81 Crescent Corridor" Initiative
RAIL Solution has been asked our views on
Norfolk Southern's recently announced "I-81 Crescent Corridor"
initiative. To understand its significance, one has to separate what's
old from what's new.
Norfolk Southern President, Chairman, and
CEO Charles "Wick" Moorman made a major address at Hotel
Roanoke, which he called a "coming out party" for the
railroad's I-81 strategy.
A Multi-State Plan Needs Multi-State Involvement
Solution is reaching out to Tennesseans,
Pennsylvanians, Marylanders, and
“Our neighbors need to know
that the H-1581 process offers opportunity
for significant transport- ation
improvements at less cost to taxpayers,
highway users and our environment
up and down the I-81 Corridor. These
citizens need to be pressing their
transportation planners to gain
access to the intermodal rail planning
RAIL Solution Exec. Dir.
(continued from homepage)
It is not new for NS to be interested in movement of intermodal
freight between the South and the Northeast. In the 2003 Reebie
study conducted by Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation,
NS favored a 13-state corridor linking three or four terminals in the
South with counterpart facilities in the Northeast. Six new trains in
each direction were envisaged, with state participation sought in the
construction of terminals. Diversion of 30% of the trucks was projected
at full implementation at an investment cost of $7 billion.
At that time, however, we were having difficulty interesting NS in the
I-81 Corridor at all. We wanted to divert through trucks on I-81 in Virginia
to reduce the scope and urgency of planned interstate highway expansion,
but we could get little interest or buy-in from the railroad. Now the
route map that accompanied the NS presentation specifically shows both
a route following I-81 and one through central Virginia. See specifically
pp. 23-32 of their June 6, 2007 presentation
Also new seems to be an increased recognition of the
importance of the difference between "conventional intermodal",
a term used throughtout the early part of the presentation, referring
to the railroad's currently dominant orientation to carrying shipping
containers, and an "open intermodal" concept needed to compete
in truck markets. The NS briefing specifically identifies a million trucks/year
as divertible and one of its stated goals is "access for all motor
carriers." This shows that NS is now thinking well beyond the movement
of shipping containers. Though a timetable extending to 2013 is given
for full implementation, the briefing contains no cost numbers.
The term "I-81 Crescent Corridor" is definitely new.
Perhaps based on the success of its Heartland Corridor initiative, NS
now feels it's time to roll out the next multi-state corridor plan and
begin stumping for support.
The route map will be of interest to the Tennessee folks
because it clearly links Memphis and Knoxville, which is what their I-40
Corridor folks want. Memphis to Harrisburg time is given as 30 hrs. That
corridor is maybe twice as long as what we've been looking at, so it may
be safe to say Knoxville to Harrisburg in 15 hours, which is not too far
off the 12 hours we had been shooting for.
The map of rail route improvements indicates substantial work between
Knoxville and Roanoke, as well as north of Front Royal, both of which
are relevant to our Knoxville - Harrisburg focus. The map of terminals
shows both Knoxville and Harrisburg. One key unknown at this point is
how the I-81 Crescent Corridor relates to the I-81 Freight Rail Study
that is ongoing, jointly funded and conducted by Norfolk Southern and
Department of Rail and Public Transportation. But it seems reasonable
to conclude at this point that the new, wider NS interest in the I-81
Corridor is at least in part a result of this study and the HB-1581 legislation
authored by RAIL Solution that gave rise to it.
The justifications for public investment (p. 30) are revealing
and relevant because any public/private joint venture or partnership
of any kind is going to encounter issues relating to justifying public
investment. Savings have to be verifiable or public participation will
be denounced as unwarranted subsidies to the railroads and their shareholders.
NS says they are prepared to develop high quality, truck competitive services
in a broad geographic market. It's good to see that they
are going public with this and getting excited about the volume of divertible
trucks. I think RAIL Solution gets some credit for getting them going
on it originally, though!
June 7th at 10am
CSX's Innovative I-95 Corridor Proposal
Rail: Perpetually Underfunded
Tier 1 EIS
-Overview of DEIS.
-VDOT I-81 Site
-Write to VDOT>
-EIS Process Overview
-Letters to Editor
RAIL Solution's I-81 Transportation Issues & Priorities
Maximize Rail/ Minimize Road Expansion
-VA Gen. Assembly
-Analysis & Reports