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CSX set to begin work on new rail terminal

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This artist's rendition depicts CSX's future intermodal facility on U.S. 301 in Edgecombe County.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

A groundbreaking for CSX’s proposed intermodal rail facility is going to be in a couple of weeks.

The ceremony is set for 12:30 p.m. April 24 at the Gateway Technology Center at N.C. Wesleyan College, to the elation and relief of state Board of Transportation member Gus Tulloss.

"It is a game changer," Tulloss said of the project, called the Carolina Connector. "It's going to do so much for eastern North Carolina."

The CSX facility is going to be located off U.S. 301, across from the front entrance of the college in Edgecombe County.

When completed, the facility is going to be a place for freight trains to arrive, with the freight to be off-loaded onto other trains or trucks for distribution.

CSX, based in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2016 announced plans to build a facility, but CSX eventually put those plans on hold and reassessed the company’s business model.

In June, the state Department of Transportation and CSX announced they had reached an agreement on a scaled-back facility.

"It has been so up and down," Tulloss said of what has been happening.

Tulloss credited the persistence of the state Transportation Department leadership and the Carolinas Gateway Partnership. The latter is the Rocky Mount-based business and industrial recruiter for Edgecombe and Nash counties.

"They never let up and never let it get away," he said.

Word of the ceremony has got the local business community in good spirits.

"It's finally time," said Kristen Brabble, chief administrative officer of First Carolina Bank. "I think it has been a big thing that we have been waiting for in this community for a long time.

"It's going to bring others to this community, other businesses that we sorely need," Brabble said. "And we're going to grow."

The CSX facility is going to be another boost for a Twin Counties area that has been approved by the Council of State to be the relocated headquarters of the state Division of Motor Vehicles and that is set to be the home of a new Triangle Tire plant and a new Corning distribution center.

This is in addition to the area having the Rocky Mount Mills development and the Rocky Mount Event Center.

"And it's exciting to be alive and be in Rocky Mount at this time to know what it's going to mean for the next 20, 30, 40 years," Tulloss said. "I think it's going to bring our kids back home. It's going to bring some wonderful new talent into this area over the next so many years."

Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President David Farris said he is excited about the CSX facility because "it's going to bring in a lot more industry because of the shipping availability from not only Nash and Edgecombe, but probably a 50- or 60-mile radius, which lifts us all up economically."

"This is going to give us a different kind of boost than a plant coming in with 500 or a thousand or 2,000 employees. This is going to provide opportunities for those plants where it makes sense to come here," Farris said.

Carolinas Gateway President and CEO Norris Tolson said he anticipates construction to begin in June, with his guess being the facility is going to be operating by maybe the fall or winter of 2020.

As for his thoughts about the ceremony being set, Tolson said, "What it does is it validates what we've been saying to our customer base all over the country about, 'Hey, it's coming. Hey, it's coming. Hey, it's coming.'"

CSX is planning to contribute at least $40 million to the project and the state Transportation Department is going to invest up to at least $118 million.

State transportation officials have said they believe the facility is going to have an indirect impact of up to 1,300 jobs.

Andrew Barksdale, state transportation spokesman, said although details of the ceremony are a work in progress, plans are for state Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon, Tulloss and Tolson to speak.

Barksdale also said Gov. Roy Cooper has been invited. Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for Cooper, said she and her team are not yet able to confirm whether the governor is going to attend.

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