Over the years, there has been much talk about the development of an inland intermodal container terminal associated with the Heartland Corridor. A 1999 study conducted by the Nick J. Rahall II Appalachian Transportation Institute (RTI) spurred much of that conversation. The findings of the 13-county commodity flow analysis led to a 2001 RTI report that cleared the way for the development of the Heartland Corridor Project — a public-private partnership that cleared the Norfolk Southern Railroad Pocahontas Line for double-stack container trains to traverse the Appalachian region from the Ports of Virginia to Columbus, Ohio, and all points west.
Under the leadership of state Sen. Bob Plymale, the West Virginia Senate passed a 2007 bill creating the Intermodal and Rail Enhancement Fund. The West Virginia Public Port Authority was instructed to conduct an economic and market analysis for an inland port. The analysis confirmed the need for an inland intermodal continuer port to be built, and identified the Prichard site in Wayne County, W.Va., as the optimal site. Norfolk Southern Railroad agreed to donate the site to the port authority.
The authority received a $12-million U.S. Department of Transportation grant for the construction of the Prichard Intermodal Facility along the Heartland Corridor. Continuing efforts to improve the transportation system and economy of southern West Virginia, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall and Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin announced the funding Dec. 14, 2011.
With the nearest intermodal facility more than 120 miles away, the Prichard Intermodal Facility is being developed to serve as an intermodal container cargo-transfer terminal along Norfolk Southern’s Heartland Corridor rail line. Not only will this facility give industries in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio more modern and efficient freight container service and enhance access to international markets, it will bring many economic benefits, including the potential to add 2,500 jobs. Regional importers and exporters will have the opportunity to leverage the Panama Canal expansion to add water container service to Asia via the Ports of Virginia. Additionally, those companies looking to continue using West Coast ports will be able to do so through Prichard.
The West Virginia Public Port Authority and the state Division of Highways are in the process of releasing a series of requests for proposals for site preparation and terminal construction and operations. A ground-breaking is expected to take place in late summer. A 16- to 18-month construction cycle is estimated for site preparation and terminal construction as well as industrial road and bridge construction over the Heartland Corridor into the terminal site. The port authority also has entered into an agreement with RTI for the development and implementation of a marketplace strategy for the terminal. That work is under way.