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CSX plans for rail hub boost area

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BY COREY DAVIS
Staff Writer

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Local and state leaders probably breathed a sigh of relief as plans were finally finalized by CSX and the state Department of Transportation to build a new intermodal transportation facility in Edgecombe County.

The Carolina Connector, or CCX, will be built on the CSX mainline and ran by CSX. The deal has the DOT investing up to $118.1 million for site development and roadway construction. The DOT conducted an economic impact evaluation in early June and determined the facility will have an indirect job impact of up to 1,300 jobs. The CCX is expected to begin operations in 2020.

Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership who helped bring the intermodel terminal to the Twin Counties in the initial deal in 2016, said it will provide another vital link in the logistics solutions offered in the Twin Counties and Eastern North Carolina.

“Getting products to the customer is paramount to any business’s success,” Tolson said. “Edgecombe and Nash counties wil now truly be a gateway to markets throughout the eastern part of the U.S.”

CSX originally intended to build a “hub and spoke” intermodal facility in Edgecombe County. In November, CSX put those plans on hold as the company reassessed its long-term business model. Since then, state officials remained in contact to ensure the Edgecombe County site remained in consideration.

Laura Phelps, manager of media relations of CSX Transportation, said the Jacksonville-based company was pleased to have reached another agreement with the state to develop the intermodal facility in Rocky Mount in Edgecombe County. The newly designed project will be constructed on a 330-acre site with an annual lift capacity of 110,000 containers.

Phelps added CSX’s contribution to the estimated $160 million project will total approximately $40 million, including cost for property, equipment, design and construction oversight and operational expertise.

“This will enhance the region’s transportation infrastructure, create distinct competitive advantages for North Carolina’s businesses and leverage the environmental efficiencies of rail to drive substantial public benefits for the state,” Phelps said. The Carolina Connector complements CSX’s intermodal strategy and our scheduled railroad operating model, providing intermodal connectivity to a major consumption market in the Triangle region and Eastern North Carolina. We commend Gov. Cooper for the leadership he has shown in making this project possible.”

Edgecombe County Manager Eric Evans said CSX has given no plans about it will do with the rest of the 377 acres of land the company still owns in Edgecombe County that’s located across from N.C. Wesleyan College. The original project had CSX building on 707 acres that it purchased. 

In addition, the initial $270 million project also had 300 long-term positions coming on line once the terminal became operational, while about 150 of the terminal positions were going to be directly employed by CSX with average annual salaries paying $60,000 a year. Evans added no word has come down from CSX about the new number of direct jobs coming into the county from the smaller version of the facility.

After some disappointment coming last year about reports that the project would be scrapped, however, Evans was pleased to know that CSX is going ahead with a plan to build in Edgecombe County that continues the momentum of Triangle Tire investing $580 million and creating 800 jobs and Corning’s investment of $86 million and creating 149 jobs in Edgecombe County.

“It was a little concerning when we caught the word that the project might not happen because we really built our hopes and dreams around it,” Evans said. “While it’s small compared to the size of operations at Triangle Tire, but the reason why it’s so important because that’s the kind of facility that will draw in other businesses around it. All these manufacturing operations around the world are all about making a profit. To make a profit they’ve got to cut cost, so being closed to a facility like that cuts a company’s transportation’s cost down significantly.”

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