Norfolk Southern officials and dignitaries and invited guests were at the site of the Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility this morning as the ribbon was cut to welcome the infrastructure project to completion.
As is typical of Norfolk Southern events and meetings, a safety briefing was offered to begin. Norfolk Southern is proud of their safety record.
Remember the obstacles that were faced as Norfolk Southern worked to get the project approved?
Local, state and federal agencies and officials came together with Norfolk Southern people to overcome the difficulties, and the result is a beautiful facility just west of Bessemer. (Click here to read everything I've written about this "hub," as it was called.)
This facility will have a profound effect on our community and on the state for years to come, the assembled crowd heard.
It will create about 200 jobs immediately, but has the potential to create or benefit between 8,000 and 9,000 jobs in the area.
By 2020, it will divert 600,000 trucks to rail, and save more than 17 million gallons of fuel by doing so. It will reduce CO2 emissions by more than 190,000 tons. More than $59 million in congestion-related costs will be saved, and over $15 million in accident costs will be avoided. Each intermodal train typically removes 280 long-haul trucks from the highways.
The facility itself is impressive, with an Automated Gate System that shortens the wait time for trucks entering the terminal, which improves driver productivity as well as air quality. This gate system will have optical character capability, meaning it can automatically recognize trailers and containers.
The facility is environmentally designed to minimize light and sound spillover (a concern of nearby residents).
The main administrative building meets LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification standards.
The facility will begin operating in November as existing international Birmingham services are transferred to the new facility.
Full opening will occur in January 2013 with new domestic services, including 20' and 40' international freight service to and from seaports in Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans; and 53' domestic freight service to and from Bethlehem, PA; Greencastle, PA; and industrial markets in Mexico.
Governor Robert Bentley, Representatives Terri Sewell and Spencer Bachus, and numerous state legislators and officials were on hand for the ribbon cutting.
Terri Sewell spoke and delivered what might have been the most meaningful thought of the event.
Speaking of the 7th congressional district, she said, "What we lack in economic prosperity we make up for with heart and spirit." Amen.
I didn't see any elected officials from Bessemer at the event (although I could have missed someone), but Bessemer's business community was well represented, with folks from the Chamber of Commerce and several local businesses on hand.
Let's give Norfolk Southern an official Bessemer Progressives welcome to Western Jefferson County. We look forward to having you and the benefits of your presence here for decades to come.