NORTH BALTIMORE, Ohio -- Vice President Joe Biden lauded CSX Transportation's decision to expand its capability to handle containerized freight at its 500-acre terminal in northwestern Ohio, comparing the project to "the inland version of widening the Panama Canal."
Mr. Biden said Wednesday that the railroad's National Gateway project is a prime example of federal infrastructure funds promoting private-sector profitability and jobs development.
While CSX used no public money to develop the $175 million terminal, which is about 37 miles south of Toledo, related clearance-improvement work in eastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia was paid for in part by $98 million in federal funds, as well as state funding, Mr. Biden said during an afternoon address at the facility.
"Without TIGER, there would be no National Gateway," Mr. Biden said, referring to the Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery grant program that, in its $1.5 billion first year, included slightly more than half the $183 million CSX budgeted to raise bridges and enlarge tunnels along a route linking North Baltimore with another new terminal southwest of Harrisburg, Pa.
The federal grant leveraged $180 million in state funds and $500 million in CSX investment, the vice president said. Similar improvements and expansion of transportation facilities across the country is needed to help American manufacturers compete globally and create good-paying jobs for middle-class workers, he said.
Infrastructure improvement "means good jobs coming home, and brings private-sector investment off the sidelines," Mr. Biden said.
Future stages of CSX's National Gateway remain to be built.
Among projects in planning and development stages is enlargement of a 4,000-foot tunnel under part of southeast Washington, D.C., that is expected to cost more than $100 million but is on the primary CSX route between the Midwest and ports in Virginia and the Carolinas.
Meanwhile, the location of a new intermodal terminal in Baltimore, Md., is the subject of ongoing controversy there.
All of the bridge and tunnel improvements are intended to allow CSX trains to carry full-size domestic freight containers stacked two-high on specially designed flat cars, which significantly increases capacity on trains of similar length compared with single-level trailers or containers.
Norfolk Southern, CSX's primary competitor in East Coast-Ohio markets, has already completed a similar clearance project between Norfolk, Va., and Columbus, where low tunnels in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia were a particular problem.
The Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. David Patch is a reporter for The Blade.