BNSF Railway expands Memphis freight center

BNSF Railway expands Memphis freight center

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 9:08 pm
By: AP

MEMPHIS (AP) — BNSF Railway is spending more than $100 million to upgrade its freight center as the energy crisis spurs demand for rail service. BNSF will load and unload trains 7,500 feet long at the 185-acre center, using five nine-story cranes prominently. “This facility provides the opportunity to move freight from the West coast into the Southeast, within a 250-mile radius of Memphis,” said Vann Cunningham, associate vice president of economic development for the company. “And it allows them to take advantage of the economies of rail.” Because of the high cost of diesel fuel, shippers of all stripes are looking to convert, which bodes well for Memphis, home to five Class I railroads. “The railroads are hurting too, but the trucking companies are hurting much worse,” said Dan Ortwerth, who follows Canadian National and BNSF for Edward Jones in St. Louis. “Evidence is bubbling to the surface in a variety of places that the railroads are taking business from trucks,” he said. Trucking companies themselves are quickly becoming some of the biggest proponents of railroads, said Tom Malloy, vice president of the Intermodal Association of North America. “One the largest growing lines of business for railroads are the trucklines,” he said. BNSF, the No. 1 intermodal carrier among U.S. railroads, bought up land to expand its 35-acre site into its current 185-acre facility. Using its partnership with Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX, BNSF can offer West coast shippers one-line service from the Los Angeles ports to Atlanta, even though its own track goes only to Birmingham, Ala. “It means BNSF can attract traffic that crosses their domain but doesn’t start or end in their domain,” Ortwerth said. “The better they can smoothly coordinate with their eastern brethren, the more they are going to be a desired transportation option for shippers.” With six 8,000-foot lanes in Memphis for moving containers from rail to truck and vice versa, BNSF will be able to send trains more than 1 1/2 miles long directly for Memphis. “The push is to build longer trains,” said Scott Jenkins, BNSF’s intermodal manager in Memphis. “That means you can add 90 more containers with the same number of people.” The five wide-span cranes make it possible for BNSF to lift 1 million containers a year because they have enough reach to extend over six lines of railroad track and three lines of truck traffic. “The cranes position us to be able to take the growth as it comes,” Jenkins said. ——— Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com Published in The Messenger 7.30.08

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