Norfolk Southern has started raising the roofs on a series of tunnels in order to accommodate taller trains. A total of 28 tunnels will be updated as part of a three-year engineering project to increase intermodal freight capacity between the port of Hampton Roads, Va., and Chicago, a stretch known as the Heartland Corridor. When the project is completed in early 2010, containerized freight moving in double-stack trains will be able to shave off about 200 miles and up to a day's transit time between the East Coast and the Midwest. Currently, double-stack trains must take longer routes by way of Harrisburg, Pa., or Knoxville, Tenn. The Heartland Corridor goes across Virginia, through southern West Virginia and north through Columbus, Ohio. In addition, overhead clearances will be increased on seven railroad bridges, three overhead bridges, three railway signals and three sets of overhead wires. "The Heartland Corridor is one of the most significant railroad engineering projects of modern times," says Tim Drake, NS vice president engineering.
Norfolk Southern, the states of Virginia, Ohio and West Virginia, and the federal government formed a public-private partnership to fund the project, which also includes new intermodal terminals in Columbus, Ohio, Prichard, W.Va., and the Roanoke, Va., region. Norfolk Southern says double-stack container service will create economic development opportunities in those regions served by the corridor by providing economical access to world markets. Additionally, it says, improved intermodal capacity and service will divert freight from trucks off highways serving the corridor, with associated savings in highway construction and maintenance costs and reduced exhaust emissions and fuel consumption.
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