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Port of Virginia approves construction bid for on-dock rail expansion

Project comes amid other plans to deepen the ship channel

The Port of Virginia has approved a $61.5 million construction bid for a project aimed at increasing the port’s on-dock rail capacity to 1.1 million containers a year.

The project consists of expanding the double-stack, on-dock rail operation at the Norfolk port by doubling the size of the Central Rail Yard at Norfolk International Terminals (NIT). The board of commissioners for the Virginia Port Authority last Tuesday unanimously approved the bid by Allan Myers Virginia Inc., which had handled the optimization projects at NIT and the Virginia International Gateway.

The Central Rail Yard at the Norfolk International Terminals at the Port of Virginia. (Photo: Virginia Port Authority)

The board also agreed to proceed with an $18 million contract with Konecranes for up to three cantilever rail-mounted gantry cranes and their support systems.

The project would increase NIT’s Central Rail Yard capacity to 610,000 container lifts annually. 

The lift capacity at NIT is currently 350,000, with an additional 480,000 in lift capacity at the Virginia International Gateway.

Construction consists of demolition, pavement work, utilities infrastructure the installation of new railroad track, the port said. Work will begin in February and be completed in late 2023.

Another project, to deepen and widen the port’s commercial ship channel to 55 feet, is also underway. That project, scheduled for completion in mid-to-late 2024, will allow for two-way traffic of ultra-large container vessels. 

The port is also aims to start preliminary planning to expand container capacity at the north berth of the NIT. The project would create throughput capacity of 630,000 containers annually, the port said, with design work scheduled for completion by the end of 2022. Construction would begin in the spring of 2023.

“In a little more than two years The Port of Virginia will be served by the deepest and widest ship channel anywhere on the US East Coast,” Stephen A. Edwards, VPA CEO and executive director, said in a release. “Pairing that channel depth with modern terminals and significant rail capacity is going to attract big ships and more cargo volume. We are going to need the rail capacity to support the additional cargo we’ll be getting from this shift of big vessels to Virginia.”

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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.