|Messenger photo by Linda Dillman|
|A semi-trailer checks in at the entrance to the newly opened Norfolk Southern Rickenbacker Intermodal Facility at the edge of Franklin and Pickaway counties. A grand opening for the terminal was held on March 10 and heralds a list of benefits including thousands of new jobs, emission reductions, and millions of dollars in transportation cost savings.|
From its days as a home to fighter planes and bombers criss-crossing the skies above central Ohio, to a military-public-private entity, Rickenbacker Airport continues to evolve in its mission of serving the state and the country.
Another task was added on March 10 when a red ribbon was ceremoniously cut signifying the grand opening of the $68.5 million Norfolk Southern Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal spanning the Franklin and Pickaway county lines. The terminal connects goods transported via trains and trucks and takes advantage of the economic and environmental efficiencies of trains for long haul movement with the speed and flexibility of trucks.
"The world will never see central Ohio through the same eyes after today," Congresswoman Deborah Pryce noted.
It was just a few years ago that the area was covered in farmland and home to Pickaway County Commissioner Jay Wippel. He told a standing-room-only crowd his family settled in the area and it was only a couple of years ago they still harvested corn.
"I would watch bountiful fields of corn grow here," said Wippel. "The infrastructure that has now grown will also produce bountiful yields in the years to come."
Columbus Regional Airport Authority Board Chair Kathleen Ransier said, "On a steamy 100 degree day, we stood in an empty field and broke ground for this facility. The Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal is now open for business as a hot transportation hub linking East Coast seaports with the Heartland Corridor."
Because operations at existing intermodal facilities were at capacity and business was turned away-rail intermodal service increased 371 percent locally from 1994 to 2004-Rickenbacker was selected to host the new terminal. After the first 10 years of service, the new terminal is expected to provide $660 million in transportation cost savings for shippers, reduce 49 million truck miles driven in Ohio, and significantly reduce emissions.
Over the course of 30 years, benefits include: 9,500 direct jobs, 10,900 indirect jobs, an economic impact of $15.1 billion, $1.2 billion in building construction, $1.37 billion invested in machinery and equipment, over $800 million in direct local, state, and school district tax revenues, and $1.26 billion in indirect tax revenue.
The Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal is located along the Heartland Corridor, which is undergoing a series of enhancements to allow containerized freight movement on double-stacked trains versus single stack. Trains operating in the corridor can reach the Midwest from the east coast much faster in cutting about 200 miles and up to a day’s transit time off the present route.
A team effort
"This development is a model of cooperative effort," said Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman. "For a project of this size and magnitude, it is important to have the right team on Capitol Hill. It’s becoming more important as people see rail as a solution to the nation’s crowded highways. Columbus has historically been important to us as rail hub and Rickenbacker anchors the western end of the Heartland Corridor. The result is competitive transportation for central Ohio without taxing our overtaxed highway system. This is the model for a successful public-private partnership. It is a win-win-win solution."
Groundwork for the terminal was laid by Norfolk Southern and the Columbus Regional Airport Authority (CRAA) and made possible by significant financial commitments at the federal level, state of Ohio, Columbus, and Franklin and Pickaway counties. The first phase cost $68.5 million, which includes approximately $27 million from a federal Highway Administration grant and contributions from Norfolk Southern and CRAA.
"This community has been blessed," commented U.S. Senator George Voinovich. "It’s awesome (terminal). Ohio is known as the nation’s crossroad and we have this wonderful location. We all worked very hard to push the federal part of this project. This is the best day for the government and private sector working together. It’s a great day and one that will have impact on this state for years to come."
The terminal provides customers with access to key Midwest markets, as well as increased terminal capacity and enhanced service levels such as direct intermodal train service to and from Norfolk, Va. and Chicago gateways to and from the west coast, and automated gate system expediting trucks in and out of the facility, increased parking capacity and an improvement in the flow of equipment, and close proximity to shippers and receivers in one of the fastest growing distribution hubs in the nation.
"There was always great hope for this airport and this region," said Congressman Pat Tiberi, "and this is going to be a great thing. Ohio is the heart of it all and this facility will be a logistics leader for our country. It means great things for our community for years to come."