Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Sunday, June 30, 2013
I was glad to see some progress on the Elliston Intermodal site (“Intermodal yard creeps closer with land buy,” May 20 news story). However, I am somewhat concerned that too few citizens of the Roanoke and New River Valley communities understand the importance of the intermodal facility to our region’s ability to be economically competitive. (Note: Intermodal facilities are locations where cargo shipping containers can be taken off of trains and put on trucks and taken off of trucks and put onto trains.)
In 2015, there is going to be a shift in container cargo traffic, and it will significantly impact the Roanoke and New River valleys. The Panama Canal is being enlarged and will soon be able to handle substantially larger vessels that transport container cargo from Asia. Since transportation by ship is the least expensive method of transport, this enlarged canal capacity will cause a fundamental shift in the global traffic patterns of container cargo.
Some experts forecast 25 percent of the container cargo traffic that currently arrives in Los Angeles and Seattle to shift and enter the U.S. supply chain and distribution networks on the East Coast and Gulf Coast. Business opportunities will also shift from the West Coast to the East Coast.
Roanoke and the New River Valley have a near-term competitive advantage. Of all East Coast ports, only the Port of Virginia, largely due to our naval base, is currently able to handle these larger Panama Canal vessels. All other East Coast ports (South Carolina, Georgia, New York and New Jersey) are either too shallow and are rushing to conduct environmental impact assessments and applying for permits to increase their harbor depths, or they have bridges that are too low to permit clearance of these larger vessels. Until 2018, the New River and Roanoke valleys have a competitive advantage to capture some of this shift of container-cargo business opportunities, which includes final product assembly businesses and distribution centers.
This is a link to an excellent Norfolk Southern video (youtube/wh_zH3E1SJ8) that explains the importance of building the intermodal facilities and how all components of the Heartland Corridor Clearance Project are needed for it to be a win-win for all who contributed to the funding as part of the public/private partnership agreements. The video makes an excellent case for the increased future use of intermodal facilities and the importance to local economies. Many intermodal facilities are currently under construction.
The Elliston site is forecasted to create between 2,900 and 7,000 jobs, depending on the assumptions used. Our region can reap the benefits of economic growth and job creation due to lower materials costs and reduced transportation costs. This can be a win-win for everyone. More jobs, fewer trucks on the highway as national freight traffic shifts from trucks to trains, and low-pollution industries moving to our area.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has plans to widen Route 603 between the proposed intermodal facility site to the Ironto Interstate 81 Exit, so that trucks can avoid causing traffic problems in Elliston and Shawsville. All local communities are better off taking a regional view and supporting this critical economic development opportunity.
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