Norfolk Southern nixes Northern Virginia choke point on Crescent Corridor

By Jeff Berman · August 23, 2010

Class I railroad carrier Norfolk Southern recently announced it has eliminated what it described as a critical choke point on its Crescent Corridor initiative with a reconfigured rail junction near Front Royal, Virginia.

NS officials said this was the final and most complex of six capacity improvement projects in Northern Virginia to handle more trains at higher speeds. These Northern Virginia-based capacity expansion projects received $43 million in funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and roughly $20 million from NS.

And these projects lengthened or built new passing tracks between Manassas, Virginia and Front Royal, installed five miles of double track near the Virginia Inland Port, improved signal and traffic control systems, and increased train speeds through Riverton Junction near Fort Royal, according to NS.

In an interview with LM, NS spokesman Robin Chapman said NS had been aware for some time that it needed to improve train speeds through Northern Virginia, and he added that what made it possible to accomplish was the availability of funds from the state of Virginia.

“This was something we had to do whether we got pubic-private partnership funding or not,” said Chapman. “The availability of funds made it quicker.”

Chapman said there were six individual projects within this effort.

Among the projects are the so-called “B-Line” between Manassas and Fort Royal, which serves as the main connector line between the company’s Piedmont Line, which comes up from Atlanta, through Lynchburg and into Manassas and is a very important intermodal route for NS. And from Front Royal into the Northeast, into Harrisburg, Pa., New Jersey and beyond, and out West, is the “H Line” from Southwest Virginia, parallels I-81 up into the Northeast.

“The B line connects those two North-South routes,” said Chapman. “That constitutes a very important intermodal corridor for us. The problem we had between Manassas and Front Royal—the B Line—was that we had a shortage passing sidings, and we needed to make some signaling improvements so we could run more trains through there faster. When we did some signaling improvements, we lengthened four new passing sidings between Manassas and Front Royal. North of Front Royal on the H line, we installed five miles of double-tracking in the vicinity of the Virginia Inland Port, which is an important intermodal port we serve that is owned by the Port of Virginia. The final project is the Riverton Junction Project, where the H Line comes up from Roanoke to Harrisburg, where there is a bridge where the B Line connects to it at the Shenandoah River. The approach to this bridge had some pretty sharp curves to it. What we did was reduce to curvature to that approach so that trains could go through there faster.”

The total of all these improvements allows the NS to move more trains faster through that part of Northern Virginia, which was the part of the Crescent Corridor, which was in most need of capacity improvements, said Chapman.

Launched in June 2007, the Crescent Corridor is a nearly $2.5 billion public-private partnership (PPP) to build a rail corridor spanning from Louisiana to New Jersey. NS officials said this endeavor will expand and improve its rail network from the northeast to the southeast, expedite the delivery of cargo shipments, and reduce highway congestion by diverting truck traffic. When it is completed, NS said it will stretch across 2,500 miles from New Orleans to Newark, N.J. and run through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana.

The Crescent Corridor’s first phase is expected to be completed by 2013, according to NS officials.

NS cited the following as benefits of the Crescent Corridor upon its completion:
-$326 million in tax revenues to states and communities;
-1.3 million long-haul trucks diverted from interstates;
-$146 million in accident avoidance savings;
-1.9 million tons in CO2 reduction;
-$575 million in congestion savings;
-$92 million in highway maintenance savings; and
-169 million gallons in fuel savings.


About the Author

Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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