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Rail Roundup: Norfolk Southern seeks short line acquisition; BNSF opens bridge

NS says acquisition would benefit Midwest-Southeast moves

Norfolk Southern wants to buy Cincinnati Southern Railway. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Norfolk Southern intends to acquire 300-plus-mile Midwest-Southeast short line

Norfolk Southern plans to acquire the 337-mile Cincinnati Southern Railway, which runs between Cincinnati and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The city of Cincinnati, which owns the railway, would receive cash consideration of $1.62 billion. The railroad would pay for the transaction through a combination of internal and external sources, NS said Monday. 

The acquisition, which would need to be approved by Cincinnati voters and the Surface Transportation Board, would be completed in the first half of 2024. 

A subsidiary of NS — the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway (CNOTP) — currently operates the Cincinnati Southern Railway. CNOTP will continue to operate the railway until a lease agreement expires in 2026. 

NS would acquire substantially all the assets of the railway, which include approximately 9,500 acres of land that is part of the railway’s network. NS says owning the line would eliminate uncertainty around future lease costs. The company also said the line “is one of the highest density segments of the company’s network, with as many as 30 trains a day traveling the route.”

“The Cincinnati Southern Railway is a critical artery linking the Midwest and the Southeast and plays an important role in our powerful network that serves more than half the U.S. population,” NS President and CEO Alan Shaw said in a news release. 


“This agreement sets the framework for Norfolk Southern to own a core line in our network in perpetuity, allowing us to advance our strategic objectives of improving service, enhancing productivity, and creating an even stronger platform for accelerated growth, all while eliminating uncertainty around future control of the line and lease costs,” he continued.

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BNSF opens newly constructed rail bridge in Idaho ahead of schedule

BNSF has opened the new Sandpoint Connector bridge over Lake Pend Oreille near Sandpoint, Idaho, nearly a year ahead of schedule. 

The western U.S. railroad hopes the bridge will ease the bottlenecks in the area and improve the flow of freight and passenger rail traffic. BNSF’s mainline track meets with Montana Rail Link at Sandpoint, and so there would be multiple tracks merging into a single track to cross Lake Pend Oreille, according to BNSF. Trains would have to wait to cross the existing single-track bridge.

But the new, second bridge allows trains to run in both directions, reducing the need for trains to stage and idle while waiting to cross the lake, BNSF said.

“We are excited about the benefits this second bridge brings, including reducing congestion and helping to move current rail traffic more efficiently,” Matt Jones, BNSF director of public affairs, said in a Monday news release. “Mostly though, we are incredibly grateful to the residents of Sandpoint and the greater Bonner County area for their patience and support throughout the three-year construction of the new bridge.”

Completing the new bridge will enable BNSF to move onto other improvements in the area, including modernizing the original bridge. To do so, BNSF expects to close the original bridge but plans to have work completed by the middle of 2023.

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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.
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