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CN eyes opportunities in Upper Midwest with new inland terminal

CN boasts access to three coasts as an incentive for exporters and importers

A CN train heads to its next destination (Photo: CN)

Canadian railway CN (NYSE: CNI) seeks to expand its reach into the Upper Midwest through a new inland distribution terminal in New Richmond, Wisconsin.

The facility will have an automotive compound for finished vehicles, as well as an intermodal terminal for shippers and receivers of greater Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. The railway expects the facility to open on March 1.

CN says the terminal will serve as a new access point into the railway’s tri-coastal network. CN hopes the terminal will provide an alternative shipping option to companies seeking to import or export goods such as automotive products, finished consumer goods, grain, soybeans and forest products.

“The New Richmond terminal is strategically located at the center of the CN network, allowing direct access to our reliable, three-coast rail network for importing vehicles and consumer products from around the globe,” said Keith Reardon, CN senior vice president for the consumer product supply chain. “Customers now have another direct link to their Midwest markets as well as a new and efficient option for shipping export commodities to global markets.”

CN’s offering comes as Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) recently announced it is opening a new intermodal terminal in the Twin Cities area. BNSF (NYSE: BRK) also has an intermodal facility in St. Paul. 

Meanwhile, CN competitor Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) is vying for market share through opportunities in Vancouver and Eastern Canada. CP also has an intermodal terminal in greater Minneapolis serving the Upper Midwest.

Bruce Abbe, strategic adviser for trade and transportation for the Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance, said the facility will provide agricultural shippers who export via containers greater access to European and Asian markets.

Indeed, one concern among some soybean exporters has been the challenges in securing empty containers in the Upper Midwest during times of tight container availability. 

“Competitive container shipping is vital for American agriculture to serve the growing global consumer market for high-value, specialized grain, soy and food ingredients. Intermodal rail service also offers the additional environmental and transportation cost reduction benefit of helping reduce long-distance highway truck traffic that now is extensively hauling inbound international container freight from Chicago to the Twin Cities,” Abbe said. “We are hopeful this new facility will further solidify the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin as a major regional transportation logistics hub.”

CN has invested approximately $970 million in Wisconsin in the past five years, including $100 million in 2020.

The railway operates 1,428 railroad route miles in the state.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.