The first phase of CSX Transportation's National Gateway project, which will allow trains carrying maximum-sized freight containers stacked two-high to travel between Ohio and East Coast ports, has been completed on time and within budget, the railroad said.
The project involves enlarging tunnels and improving clearance heights beneath bridges to allow trains taller than previously allowed to pass through.
The first phase involved such work between Greenwich, Ohio (about 80 miles southeast of Toledo) and a major container terminal CSX has developed in Chambersburg, Pa., near Harrisburg, and included enlarging two tunnels in southwestern Pennsylvania and replacing two others, near Confluence, with deep open cuts.
It also included replacing 18 bridges in northeast Ohio or lowering the tracks beneath them; enlarging four tunnels in the Potomac River valley of West Virginia and Maryland; and extensive bridge work throughout the corridor.
Double-stacked container trains began operating late last month between North Baltimore, Ohio (32 miles south of Toledo), and Chambersburg.
"While this is a significant milestone, our work is not done," Michael J. Ward, CSX's chairman, president, and chief executive said in a statement. "[We] need to finish the job and complete double-stack clearances between Chambersburg and the ports of Baltimore and Virginia."
Double-stack trains already can run between Ohio and Baltimore if the stacked containers are a smaller type used in overseas shipping, but tunnel and bridge work is still needed in Maryland to allow larger "domestic" containers to fit through when stacked on rail cars. Opening the Virginia-Ohio route will involve a major tunnel replacement project in southeast Washington.
Overall, the project is budgeted to cost about $850 million, roughly half of which CSX has sought from public funds.
Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. David Patch is a reporter for The Blade.