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Rail Roundup: CSX’s Pennsylvania tunnel update; CP’s record grain volumes

CSX talks tunnels; grain is huge for CP in January

Engineering firm Bergmann has been involved in CSX's double stacking efforts in Pennsylvania. (Photo Courtesy Bergmann)

CSX could begin construction on Boone tunnel widening in 2022

CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) reports that it’s still on course for a plan to allow double stacking in a tunnel in the Philadelphia area.

The project in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, entails lowering track through the existing Boone railroad tunnel to allow for double-stack clearance on CSX’s Interstate 95 route from Baltimore to Philadelphia, CSX told FreightWaves. CSX expects to begin project construction in 2022. 

In January, the Pennsylvania State Transportation Commission reported that it gave $8.4 million for the project, saying the grant would allow double-stack container and multilevel auto rack traffic to and from the Port of Philadelphia. 

CSX has received state funding from the state previously. Last year, the commission awarded CSX $14.4 million for the project. 

According to the Port of Philadelphia, both CSX and Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) operate trains through the port. Norfolk Southern already provides double-stacking intermodal service at the port.

“This grant allows CSX to lower tracks in nine key areas that will increase capacity and improve service between Philadelphia to Midwest and Southeast markets for both domestic and international intermodal, and automotive traffic,” CSX said last year. “The project will provide benefits for dimensional cargo shipments, such as turbines and machinery. Pennsylvania stakeholders will also benefit from improved logistics systems along with the inherent environmental benefits of moving more freight by rail in lieu of trucks.”

CSX’s effort to widen another mid-Atlantic tunnel is also still underway. The Howard Street Tunnel project is undergoing the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act, CSX told FreightWaves. 

“We are working with our partners at the FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] as the lead federal agency on an environmental assessment document,” CSX said. “We hope to move into the design and construction portion of the project in 2021.”

Canadian Pacific moves record grain volumes in January

Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) moved 2.22 million metric tonnes (MMT) in January, exceeding the previous record set in January 2020 by 6%, the railway said Monday.

Since the beginning of the 2020-2021 crop year on Aug. 1, CP has moved 16 MMT of Canadian grain and grain products, beating the amount shipped in the entire 2019-2020 crop year by more than 13%, CP said. The 2019-2020 crop year ran from Aug. 1, 2019 to July 31, 2020.

“CP, our customers and other supply chain participants have once again collaborated to move record amounts of grain through the month,” said Joan Hardy, CP vice president of sales and marketing for grain and fertilizers. “Despite a rainy start in Vancouver, the efficiency and effectiveness of the CP service model and the resiliency of the supply chain allowed for recovery through the month and supported this strong result.”

CP rival CN (NYSE: CNI) also reported that it shipped record grain volumes in January.

CP attributes the volume increase in part to additional, high-efficiency grain cars. The railway says it has added more than 3,800 new hopper cars to its fleet via purchase or lease. The hoppers can carry 15% more grain by volume and 10% more by weight compared with the older cars they are replacing, CP said.

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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.