After more than a year of construction, CSX will launch operations Wednesday at its mutimillion-dollar intermodal transfer station off State Road 60 east of Bartow.
The project, built by CSX subsidiary Evansville Western, includes 14 miles of track, transfer terminals and equipment. It will be open for trains to bring containers into the yard that sits on 318 acres of property just north of 60. The containers will be shifted by massive cranes from the rail cars to waiting trucks and vice-versa.
The terminal is accessed via a mile and a half of paved road that leads just off S.R. 60; it has been in use by construction vehicles for more than a year. There also are lengthy turn lanes on S.R. 60 built by the Florida Department of Transportation when the road was recently resurfaced. The turn lanes will make truck access into and out of the terminal facility easier, according to reports.
The giant cranes will lift cargo containers filled with consumer goods shipped to the state and will replace the containers with empty ones or outgoing goods.
Recent reports indicated that the adjacent 930-acre distribution center will enhance the state’s supply chain, according to CSX officials in Jacksonville. Some experts estimate the impact on Central Florida will reach about $1 billion annually.
The transfer facility does not include those ancillary buildings, according to CSX spokesman Ron Morrow. He said the project does, however, include an intricate rail system. The sidings will connect to CSX’s main lines.
“We’ve built all the tracks and sidings to and from the main lines,” he said. “The sidings are where trains carrying containers will park and the offloading process will transfer them to waiting trucks,” he added.
The facility will also be operated by its builder, Evansville and Western, added Morrow.
It has been estimated that 150 semi tractor-trailer trucks will be entering and exiting the new site on a daily basis, according to some reports.
“You will see lots of CSX trains in and out and lots of CSX trucks,” Morrow said. “We have a large fleet of trucks that are CSX owned or leased, but many, many others will be using this terminal.”
Container shipping has morphed into the foremost international shipping method over the past several decades and has experienced steady growth, according to state port officials. They say the opening of the wider and deeper Panama Canal is expected to raise the tonnage that could make its way through the Polk County terminal. The wider canal is expected to be in full service by next year.
“We’re not sure how much the canal widening will affect out freight shipments,” Morrow said, “But we are expecting to see some impacts.”
CSX also has bought more property at the Port of Tampa and is expected to expand operations there. CSX has not said exactly how much the new transfer facility cost, but research shows that similar CSX terminals in Kentucky and Ohio cost anywhere from $15 million to $50 million.
The new facility is expected initially to employ 55 people, but that will escalate as storage and transfer yards develop around the central hub.