Construction of the future CSX intermodal facility is on schedule to be complete by the end of the year.

That is what state Transportation Department spokesman Andrew Barksdale told the Telegram in response to recent written questions about the project across U.S. 301 from N.C. Wesleyan College.

The future CSX facility, which also is called the Carolina Connector, will be a place for freight trains to arrive, with the freight to be off-loaded onto other trains or trucks for distribution.

Construction began in August and about 40 to 60 workers are at the site at any given time, Barksdale said.

Presently, work is occurring throughout the future terminal site and along the CSX main line north and south of the site, Barksdale said.

The plan is to complete the project in three phases.

The first phase calls for rough grading, drainage work and construction of utility services. Rough grading generally means smoothing out large piles of dirt and filling in holes.

The second phase calls for the final smoothing of the land, as well as paving and constructing the tracks.

The third phase calls for constructing the buildings and cranes and doing the final landscaping.

Milord Co. is the prime contractor, with six to nine subcontractors working to complete construction at the terminal site, Barksdale said.

Polivka is the prime contractor for construction of the rail line, Barksdale said. And work on the rail bedding is in progress, Barksdale said.

The project is costing $158.1 million, with $118.1 million of funding coming via the state Transportation Department and CSX paying the remaining $40 million.

Gov. Roy Cooper and scores of other VIPs and residents gathered on April 24 on the lawn of the N.C. Wesleyan campus for a dirt-turning ceremony signaling the start of construction of the future CSX facility.

The future facility is just on the Edgecombe County side of the Nash County-Edgecombe County line.

One of those key officials at the April gathering was Carolinas Gateway Partnership President and CEO Norris Tolson.

Tolson told the Telegram he and his team are quite pleased with the progress at the future CSX facility.

“CSX is the engine that’s causing a lot of our growth in this area from an industrial point of view,” Tolson said. “I continue to be amazed at how many people that do call us and want to talk about the impact of the Carolina Connector project on this area and why they are interested in being here because of that.”

Although Tolson said he and his team cannot speak publicly about possible future commitments by business and industrial prospects, Tolson said the Carolinas Gateway Partnership presently is working 25 active projects in Tarboro and Edgecombe County.

By active projects, Tolson means clients or consultants the partnership is in discussion with and who are interested in or strongly considering setting up a location locally.

Additionally, Tolson said, “We were very, very surprised here during the holiday that the project flow did not slow down.”

He said normally from the time of Thanksgiving to early January, business and industrial prospects take time off for the holidays.

“Our project flow was very strong in December, very strong, both in Rocky Mount and also in Edgecombe County and Tarboro,” he said. “And we’ll make a couple of announcements over there sometime before the end of January.”

Tolson was asked if the future CSX intermodal facility turns out to be a success whether the company might find a way to expand or add on to the site.

“It is being designed and constructed for expansion in mind,” Tolson said. “So when the work is done out there, it will be capable of being expanded very quickly.

“The CSX and the DOT folks have been very, very sensitive to making decisions that will allow growth rather than preclude growth.,” he said. “And so if the project goes as well as I think it’s going to go, we’ll be talking expansion out there within two years.

“Now we’ve got to be able to bring the business in in order to do that,” he said. “But with the kind of growth that we’ve got, or potential growth that we’ve got, going on around us here now in these two counties, in this area, then there’s no question in my mind that we’ll be talking expansion out there in two to three years.”

Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Farris said he and his team are elated that the CSX project is in high gear.

“And as far as what it’s going to mean to Rocky Mount — that’s already happening,” Farris said. “The interest that the Carolinas Gateway Partnership and the Chamber are getting for development because of CSX is already heating up.

“And we expect it to really, really take off the closer it gets, and in particular and most definitely after it’s operational,” Farris said. “So we just think that’s going to propel us to the next level as a region.”

As for the sight of the machines in motion and the dirt being turned, Farris said, “I love it. I love it.

“That’s commerce in the making,” he said. “That’s like when you’re baking it, when you put all the ingredients in the pan and you put the cake or the pie in the oven, you know good things are happening.”