CSX plans for property still unclear


Staff Writer

Friday, March 2, 2018

Carolinas Gateway Partnership officials are backing off a statement made last week that the CSX trains-to-trucks terminal planned for Rocky Mount is kaput.

Partnership CEO Norris Tolson told the Telegram this week that as far as he knows the railroad company hasn’t pulled the plug on the project, but he doesn’t believe the company is going to build the intermodal as it originally planned. He said no decision has been made by CSX in regard to its plan on whether it will move forward to build the Carolina Connector intermodal hub and transfer facility in Rocky Mount.

However, Tolson presented a slightly different version to the Nashville Town Council during its budget retreat a week ago.

“Let me get the elephant out of the room with the CSX question upfront,” Tolson told the council. “We are still in very heavy duty negotiations — the original CSX project that I think I talked to y'all about last time I was here, the CSX company has decided not to build that facility — but we are in heavy duty negotiations with them on another kind of facility. We have no project to announce yet because it's still being discussed. Quite frankly we've been very, very careful about what we say about that new project because we don't want to spook the new management of CSX with any public statements before they're ready to make their own decision.”

Tolson told the council he has encouraged CSX  to turn over the property across from N.C. Wesleyan College if it isn’t going to build on it so the land could be turned into another megasite.

Tolson told the Telegram that CSX is still working on a new business plan that’s centered on “precision scheduled railroading,” which is reportedly a concept invented by late CEO E. Hunter Harrision.

“What they haven’t told us is whether intermodals, multimodals or any kind of modals fit into the precision scheduled railroading,” Tolson said.

CSX owns about 700 acres of land across from N.C. Wesleyan College.

“We’ve been discussing with them for several weeks about what kind of things they might want to do with all that 700-plus acres of land because they are paying taxes on it,” Tolson said. “We’re optimistic that we will wind up with some type of facility, but we don’t know what and we don’t know when. We stated to CSX as they work their new business plan what we can do to encourage them to continue to look at us because we believe we are still an important part of their future in North Carolina or along the East Coast as we ever were.”

The $270 million train hub that was announced by CSX in Rocky Mount was expected to begin construction sometime this year, with operations commencing by the end of 2019. Construction of the facility would create up to 300 short-term jobs. Once operational, the CCX transfer facility would provide more than 300 direct, long-term jobs with average terminal salaries of more than $60,000. Over time, CSX officials said the intermodal hub would create more than 1,500 jobs statewide, while attracting new businesses to the area and pump an estimated $125 million into the state economy.

Telegram staff writers Amelia Harper and Lindell John Kay contributed to this report.