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Port of Virginia Expands Rail Capacity

October 26, 2020

The Port of Virginia is preparing to expand its rail capacity and will be using a $20 million federal grant to reconfigure and double the size of the on-dock rail yard at Norfolk International Terminals (NIT).

“Expanding NIT’s Central Rail Yard is the logical next step to optimizing the investment we are making there,” said John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “The amount of cargo we move by rail, mainly to the Midwest, is growing and is important to the users of this port and our overall success, so it must keep pace with the other improvements we’re making at NIT. We have created additional capacity at the truck gate, new cranes will give us more capacity at the berth, and this investment will increase our rail capabilities. The benefits to our customers and cargo owners will be significant.”

The project’s total cost is $44 million and the federal funding was awarded through the 2020 Port Infrastructure Development Discretionary Grants Program at the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is committing $16.7 million to the project through its Rail Enhancement Fund and the port will be responsible for the $7.4 million balance.

“This project demonstrates the collaboration between The Port of Virginia, DRPT, and USDOT, to leverage investments that will double rail capacity, drive performance, and increase efficiency,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The Commonwealth is grateful to Virginia’s Congressional delegation for its ongoing leadership as we more fully integrate Virginia’s multimodal network to expand and promote The Port of Virginia as a global gateway for world trade.”

The project was supported by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, U.S. Reps. Rob Wittman, Elaine Luria, and the entire Virginia Congressional delegation.

The bulk of the work will focus on construction of 10,700 feet of new track inside the terminal: two bundles of four tracks each. The project will double the existing capacity of the current rail operation, which can handle 368,000 containers annually.

The demand for moving cargo by rail is growing, Reinhart said. Within the next decade, the port will need the capacity to process an additional 200,000 containers for export. At present, 34 percent of the port’s total volume moves to market via double-stack rail service.

Expanding the terminal’s rail capabilities will allow the port to fully capitalize on the $450 million capacity expansion project at NIT; the project’s construction phase closes later this month. The investment made at NIT expands the terminal’s annual throughput capacity by 400,000 containers through a completely-reconfigured container stacking area, greater use of technology, and new cargo handling equipment that includes two massive ship-to-shore container cranes set to arrive in early November and go into service in early 2021.

“As other areas of NIT are modernized, the terminal’s current rail operation cannot keep up with forecasted rail growth,” Reinhart said. “Our goal is to have 40 percent of our total container volume move by rail. This is an important investment to help meet that goal, to expand capacity, and maintain the expected level of service to cargo owners in the Midwest, Ohio Valley, and other inland markets.

“We are grateful to Secretary Chao and the US Department of Transportation for this investment in The Port of Virginia. We appreciate the efforts of the entire Virginia Congressional delegation for championing this important project. We are an economic driver for the Commonwealth and the nation, and this project will allow us to deliver greater value to our customers and the cargo owners as we continue building a world-class, twenty-first century port.”

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