Charlotte USA Rail Projects Will Add to Transportation Network
Its airport has long been one of Charlotte USA's chief assets, and now a major project under way in the Queen City will enhance that advantage and the scope of the region's transportation infrastructure.
Norfolk Southern broke ground in May 2012 on a $92 million project that will create a 200-acre
intermodal rail hub at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
The Charlotte Regional Intermodal Facility will link air, freight and interstate trucking to and from
busy ports such as Norfolk, Wilmington and Charleston when it opens in late 2013.
Jerry Orr, Charlotte Douglas aviation director, says the three-mile-long intermodal facility enhance the region’s position in the global marketplace.
“The airport happens to already sit on the Norfolk Southern main line, and we are leasing the property to the railroad for about $1 million a year,” he says. “The 200-acre intermodal is being constructed between two airport runways, and a recently completed interchange on I-485 will connect the facility to the region’s highway system.”
The airport already boasts a list of advantages. A US Airways hub, Charlotte Douglas handles more
than 700 daily f lights and saw record-setting passenger traffic of 39 million in 2011. It was the
sixth-busiest airport in the world in 2011 for takeoffs and landings.
The Charlotte region also is home to Foreign Trade Zone 57, which provides duty and tariff advantages that make Charlotte USA an even bigger draw for logistics-related and distribution businesses and companies importing products.
In addition, each of the region’s 16 counties includes at least one general aviation airport, and five of those handle more than 100 flights a day.
Hub of Distribution
The airport and the intermodal facility are only part of the region’s sophisticated and integrated transportation system.
The 16-county, two-state region offers ready access to major interstate highways – including Interstate 40, I-77 and I-85 – that put it within a 10-hour drive of 62 percent of the U.S. population, including the New York, Chicago and Orlando markets.
That critical advantage is one of the keys to the region drawing more than 100 distribution centers. Retailer Crate & Barrel, for example, operates a 400,000-square-foot distribution center
in Lincoln County, N.C., the first LEED-certified distribution center in North Carolina when it opened it 2009.
In April 2012, retailer Ross Stores Inc. said it would build a 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center in York County, S.C., creating 600 jobs. It will be the company’s third distribution center in York County
Rail on Track
The region is a major railroad hub with Tier I service from CSX and Norfolk Southern and several short-line carriers, including Lancaster and Chester Railroad, and Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway.
Locomotives owned by L&C take loaded railcars and haul them to intersection points in Lancaster and Chester, where Tier I carriers CSX and Norfolk Southern transport the railcars to cities throughout the United States. The company also does reverse hauling, delivering railcars from CSX and Norfolk Southern back to its Charlotte-region customers.
Aberdeen Carolina & Western is the largest privately owned short-line in North Carolina, and its officials predict that the rail corridor they serve is going to boom with commercial development.
“Our railroad operates through six rural counties in the Charlotte region near the Highway 24/27 corridor, extending from Aberdeen to Charlotte, out to Pinehurst, then to Gulf, N.C., just southwest of Raleigh,” says Russ Smitley, the railoroad’s vice president of marketing. “It is the last undeveloped corridor in the region, and we have been talking with developers along our lines. The railroad is going to be a major catalyst for economic development.”
Smitley says some development agreements along the corridor are already in place for the next few months.
“Typically, industries that locate next to railroads have higher-paying jobs because the company’s investment is higher, with those companies having a global view of things,” he says. “We are also involved with several economic development agencies to bring more top jobs to the region. We will be a big player on the 24/27 corridor.”