Johnston County will be home to a major transportation hub for CSX Railroad known as an intermodal terminal. CSX officials are calling the 450 acre site, between Selma and Micro, the Carolina Connector (CCX).
Officials from CSX Transportation joined county leaders Thursday announcing plans for the $272 million terminal, which will facilitate the movement of containerized cargo around the eastern U.S.
“We are excited about developing infrastructure within North Carolina that makes the state’s ports more competitive, lowers transportation costs for business, and promotes reliance on freight rail, the most fuel efficient and environmentally-friendly form of land transportation,” said Louis Renjel, CSX vice president, strategic infrastructure initiatives. “CSX has committed to working closely with Johnston County officials and community members to build an environmentally responsible terminal that benefits the local economy and surrounding area.”
“This large-scale infrastructure project will drive long-term economic growth, position eastern North Carolina as a major transportation hub, and create both short- and long-term jobs,” said Chris Johnson, director of the Johnston County Office of Economic Development. “Our office supports this exciting project and looks forward to its many benefits.”
When complete, CCX will serve as a key logistics hub for the transfer of goods across trucks and trains – everything from agricultural products to consumer goods. Its impact will spur obvious economic benefits across the county and beyond, but will also have positive impacts on the environment and public safety.
Construction of the terminal will create as many as 300 short-term jobs, according to estimates by CSX. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company is committing $150 million towards the total cost. Company officials expect that ultimately 1,500 jobs will be generated statewide as a result of CCX. Officials hope to terminal can be operation by 2019.
“This is going to give a great boost to our communities along the I-95 corridor and in the eastern part of the county, and we need that boost,” said Tony Braswell, Chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners. In addition to CCX’s direct economic impact, Braswell believes the terminal’s presence will also draw large distribution centers nearby – “big-box” retailers, for example, who can receive goods from around the globe and route them to stores across the eastern U.S.
“Our ports are also going to benefit from this, given Johnston County’s convenience to both Morehead City and Wilmington,” said Braswell.
CCX will be comparable to CSX’s Northwest Ohio Intermodal Transfer Hub, which handles about 900,000 containers annually. Opened in 2011, the facility employs approximately 300 workers.
Given Johnston County’s central location within the eastern U.S., CCX may prove an even more pivotal hub, said Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver. “When you look at our community on a map, you see that everything a facility like this needs is right here,” Oliver said. I-95 cuts through the county from north to south, while U.S. Highway 70 provides an east-west connection. I-40 also moves through Johnston County, linking Wilmington to North Carolina’s Piedmont Crescent. Moreover, two major railroads intersect in Selma. “This is really a good omen for all of eastern North Carolina,” she said.
As a facility that eases the transfer of cargo from road to rail, CCX will result in a net reduction of truck traffic. “The project will actually mean less congestion on our roads,” said Chris Johnson. “That also means reduced greenhouse gas emissions, fewer highway injuries and fatalities, and a cost-avoidance on highway maintenance.”
Johnston County leaders expect CCX to catalyze the county’s logistics and distribution industry. In recent years, Becton, Dickinson and Company and Sysco Corporation have opened large distribution centers in Four Oaks and Selma, respectively. “Today’s distribution jobs are technology-driven jobs that offer a good living,” said Allen Wellons, Chairman of the Johnston County Economic Development Advisory Board. “CCX will bring additional economic diversification to our county, adding employment opportunities in logistics and transportation to the bio-manufacturing, medical, retail, construction and agribusiness jobs we’re also growing.”
Governor Pat McCrory said, “Enhancing freight movement through eastern North Carolina and the State Ports is a key part of my 25 Year Transportation Vision. I am enthusiastic that CSX, with support from local governments and planning organizations, has proposed this project for North Carolina.”
On Thursday, CSX officials began reaching out to property owners in Johnston County to secure options on land close to Interstate 95 where the proposed facility would be constructed.
CSX, based in Jacksonville, Florida provides rail, intermodal and rail-to-truck transload services across a broad array of markets, including energy, industrial, construction, agricultural, and consumer products. In North Carolina, CSX operates and maintains nearly 1,800 miles of track and employs approximately 1,120 workers. In 2014, CSX handled more than 915,000 carloads of freight on the rail network in North Carolina.