On a hot day a few months ago on the lawn of N.C. Wesleyan College, Gov. Roy Cooper and fellow officials ceremonially began the start of construction of the nearby future multi-million dollar CSX intermodal rail facility.
Now, the state Transportation Department is telling the Telegram that construction is going to begin next month at the site across U.S. 301 from the front side of the college.
Transportation Department spokesman Andrew Barksdale said federal and state environmental permits are required before crews can begin work.
“We are in the process of receiving those final permits before construction on the terminal can begin,” Barksdale said.
But, he said, "We are looking for construction on the facility to start in August."
Barksdale said crews have started work on improving the part of the present railroad tracks in the area of the facility.
The Transportation Department is going to spend approximately $118 million on the facility, with CSX contributing approximately $40 million.
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.
Barksdale said Chicago area-based Millford Co. is going to be the contractor, with the construction to be complete by the end of next year.
The facility is going to be on the Edgecombe County side of the county line.
Edgecombe County Manager Eric Evans told the Telegram he believes the project is going to be quite a morale booster.
"Obviously having the announcement and having the groundbreaking was all good news and exciting to participate in, but we know a project doesn't happen until we start to see equipment moving," Evans said. "So it'll be great for us all, us and our citizens, to be able to witness that.
"The facility is itself going to be a good investment, job creator itself, but what it will do as far as spurring other economic development is even more important."
He noted just about every company is looking to see how much they can save in production and transportation costs.
"And having this available and in close proximity here in our region is going to be a game-changer for the companies that already exist — and it is also going to be a great attraction for other companies to want to locate in the area," he said.
Carolinas Gateway Partnership President and CEO Norris Tolson, the area's chief local industrial recruiter, told the Telegram of the project, "We continue to be amazed and very pleased."
Tolson noted he and his team recently met with a prospect and noted the prospect's primary interest is about how the facility, once complete, is how is going to fit into the prospect's business.
Although Tolson for confidentiality reasons cannot disclose the prospect's name, he said the prospect is into moving goods by using the highways as well as an intermodal as part of the transportation system.
"We're working some 40-odd projects right now," he said. "And a large number of those projects are in our arsenal because of the intermodal. The intermodal is bringing us tremendous interest from people who want to be near or have access to the intermodal project."
He also spoke of him and a number of others having seen a CSX intermodal rail facility in action in Ohio.
"We all came back very impressed, one, at the cleanliness and neatness of the facility, two, at the lack of noise," he said.
Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Farris compared what is about to happen at the site of the future CSX facility to the time he and others were youngsters in the midst of the Yuletide season.
"If you remember back when you were a young child on the 23rd, 24th of December, just days and hours before Christmas and how excited you were — that's us," Farris said with a chuckle. "This is Christmas coming back."