Norfolk Southern plans Louisiana-to-New Jersey rail corridor

Published 3:29 pm Thursday, June 7, 2007

Norfolk Southern Corp. announced plans Wednesday for a $2 billion-plus rail corridor stretching from Louisiana to New Jersey that the freight railroad said would speed cargo shipments and reduce highway congestion by diverting truck traffic.

The Crescent Corridor project involves expanding and improving Norfolk Southern’s rail network from the Northeast to the Southeast.

Virginia has committed $40 million in seed money for the Crescent Corridor project, which would run along Interstate 81, a major truck route, said Mike McClellan, Norfolk Southern’s vice president of intermodal and automotive marketing.

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The Norfolk-based railroad is seeking additional public money.

Public bodies should want to invest because the project will have public benefits, such as reducing highway congestion and vehicle emissions and creating economic development opportunities, McClellan said in a telephone interview.

“We’re talking about developing an entire corridor to help relieve pressure on the interstate system,” he said.

The railroad also is prepared to “invest a lot in this corridor … up to an amount that provides us an acceptable return on our investment,” McClellan said. He declined to give a dollar figure.

McClellan announced the corridor during a presentation to analysts during a conference in New York.

The corridor would include about 1,400 rail miles from New Orleans to Newark, N.J., plus investments on parallel routes, McClellan said.

If financing works out, construction would begin in 2008. The first phase would be completed by 2009, with the entire project being finished by 2013.

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