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Project Profile: Heartland Corridor

Heartland Corridor

photo credit: Port of Virginia


Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio

Project Sponsor / Borrower

FHWA Eastern Federal Lands Division
(for the Heartland Central Corridor Double Stack Clearance Project only)

Program Areas

Value Capture


Intermodal / Freight


Due to Norfolk Southern's rail network, the Port of Virginia (Newport News) has always had good rail access to the Midwest markets. The Heartland Corridor project makes the most direct rail route to the major markets of Columbus and Chicago accessible to double-stack container trains, shortening the trip to Chicago by over 200 miles by obviating the need to travel via Harrisburg and then west or to Knoxville and then north.

Extending through Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, the Heartland Corridor consists of a series of five separate intermodal projects designed to improve mobility and increase freight capacity. They include:

  • Central Corridor Double-Stack Clearance Project - the core of the Corridor - increased clearances in 28 tunnels and 24 other overhead obstructions throughout Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky enabling double-stack rail operations between Roanoke, VA and Columbus, OH
  • A new intermodal facility in Prichard, WV (Heartland Intermodal Gateway)
  • A new intermodal facility in the Roanoke region of Virginia
  • New state-of-the-art mega-intermodal facility at the former Rickenbacker Airport in Columbus, OH (now controlled by the Columbus Regional Airport Authority)
  • Relocation of the Commonwealth Railway into the median of the Western Freeway in Portsmouth, VA, connecting to the new APM Terminal that opened in July 2007 and the future 4th marine terminal for the Virginia Port Authority
  • The Heartland Corridor was also extended west to include Norfolk Southern's Columbus to Cincinnati line with aid from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act

Total - $354 million

Heartland Central Corridor Double-Stack Clearance Project - $191.6 million (Extensions to Cincinnati - $6.1 million)

Separate but complementary projects not involving FHWA include:

  • Heartland Intermodal Gateway, Prichard, WV - $32 million
  • New terminal in the Roanoke region, VA - on hold
  • New terminal in Columbus, OH at the former Rickenbacker AFB - $70 million
  • Western Freeway Rail Relocation project - $60 million
Funding Sources

Heartland Central Corridor Double-Stack Clearance Project

  • Federal SAFETEA-LU funds - $83.4 million
  • Virginia Rail Enhancement Fund - $9.8 million
  • Ohio Rail Development Commission grant - $0.8 million
  • Norfolk Southern Railroad - $98.4 million

Extension to Cincinnati

  • Federal ARRA funds - $3.6 million
  • Norfolk Southern Railroad - $2.5 million

Heartland Intermodal Gateway

  • USDOT TIGER III award - $12.7 million
  • State of West Virginia Special Railroad and Intermodal Enhancement Fund - $18 million
  • Norfolk Southern Railroad - $1 million

Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal

  • Federal SAFETEA-LU funds - $27.7 million
  • Norfolk Southern Railroad - $42.3 million

Commonwealth Railway Relocation

  • Federal SAFETEA-LU funds - $15 million
  • DRPT Rail Enhancement Funds (Fiscal Year 07) - $4.8 million
  • DRPT Rail Enhancement Funds (Fiscal Year 08 & 09) - $21.0 million
  • Governor's Transportation Funds - $5.0 million
  • Commonwealth Match of Federal Funds - $3.75 million
  • Commonwealth Railway, Inc. 30% match of DRPT funds
Project Delivery / Contract Method

Heartland Central Corridor Double-Stack Clearance Project - Design-bid-build

Commonwealth Railway Relocation - Design-build

Private Partner

Design-builder (Commonwealth Railway Relocation) - Commonwealth Railway, Inc/Moffatt and Nichol/Branscome, Inc. (awarded July 1, 2006)

Equity partner - Norfolk Southern Railroad

Project Advisors / Consultants

Tunnel enlargements - Johnson Western Gunite, LRL Construction, RJ

Corman Railroad Construction

Prime Design Consultant - Hatch Mott MacDonald

Construction Management - STV


Not applicable

Duration / Status
  • Central Corridor Double-Stack Clearance Project became operational in September 2010
  • Heartland Intermodal Gateway - opened December 2015
  • Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal - opened March 2008
  • Roanoke Region Intermodal Freight Facility - on hold
  • Commonwealth Railway Relocation - construction completed December 2009 and became operational December 2010
Financial Status


  • The first time that the private freight rail industry has worked together with U.S. DOT (FRA, FTA, and FHWA) to develop and finance a rail improvement project. Norfolk Southern invested $98.4 million in the Central Corridor Double-Stack initiative. This in turn leveraged $93.2 million in public funding.
  • Project mutually benefits Norfolk Southern's operations and the competitiveness of ports in the Tidewater region.
Related Links / Articles

Railway Technology Article

Shotcrete Magazine Article

Heartland Intermodal Gateway - Norfolk Southern

Heartland Intermodal Gateway - Herald-Dispatch (Huntington, WV)


Federal money and project oversight administration

FHWA Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division
Tel: (703) 404-6201

Dr. Robert Martinez
Vice President Business Development and Real Estate
Norfolk Southern Corporation

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