CSX announced plans in 2016 to build major container hub near Rocky Mount
A major rail transportation center planned for Edgecombe County, which has been in doubt for months, will be saved by a change in corporate strategy and a financing agreement with the state.
The N.C. Department of Transportation on Thursday announced an agreement has been reached with CSX Corporation to build the intermodal site called Carolina Connector on 330 acres. The center will allow trucks and trains to transfer cargo at a new terminal for delivery along the East Coast.
The state transportation agency will spend up to $118.1 million to prepare the site and roadway construction. CSX will contribute $96 million for real estate purchases, building a terminal on the company's mainline and operating it.
DOT Secretary Jim Trogdon released a statement saying the center will attract businesses by increasing their logistical options. An economic impact study the agency conducted earlier this month indicated 1,300 jobs could be created by businesses because of the terminal.
The Connector has had a rocky start since it was first announced.
It was originally going to be built in Johnston County for $272 million, with potentially $122 million in state financial incentives, including $110 million from DOT. But opposition from landowners there led to the company's announcing in July 2016 that it would move the project to Edgecombe County, where economic development officials had compiled 700 acres for the CSX project.
Little happened until last November, when CSX announced that it was reassessing its strategy companywide, without saying what the impact would be on its Edgecombe County plans. At the time, Gov. Roy Cooper said the state would try to convince the company that eastern North Carolina was a good fit for the project.
CSX ultimately decided to revise its traditional hub-and-spoke strategy — which operates terminals like airport hubs — in favor of smaller-scale centers that handle less traffic. That worked out well for North Carolina, as it was able to acquire a major transportation center while some states lost hub operations.
The agreement was good news to economic developers such as the Carolinas Gateway Partnership, which has been steering land sale options and other details since 2016.
"Getting products to the customer is paramount to any businesses' success," Carolina Gateway CEO and President Norris Tolson said in a statement. "... Edgecombe and Nash counties will now truly be a gateway to markets throughout the eastern part of the U.S."
The Edgecombe center is expected to be completed in 2020.