Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 1, 2013

Bulk transfer site — Facility a good idea for Bluefield

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— There has been on and off talk in recent years about the possibility of developing an intermodal facility for Mercer County to connect with the Norfolk Southern rail yard. However, local officials concede the chances of such an intermodal facility being developed for the region is not realistic at this time.

That’s why members of the Mercer County Development Authority are asking Norfolk Southern to instead consider locating a Thoroughbred Bulk Transfer facility in the Bluefield area. It would be a logical fit for the region.

“As far as a true intermodal facility like the one that NS has in Pritchard, and hopes to build in Elliston, Va., I don’t think that will happen here,” Marc Meachum, a member of the development authority board and the chief executive officer of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, told the Daily Telegraph last week. “A group of folks with the development authority met with some folks with NS. We initiated the meeting, and the things we were discussing are in the early planning stages.”

The goal of the initial meeting was to gauge interest with the railroad. Meachum said after the development authority group spoke with NS, they came away with the opinion that  such a transfer facility in the area might still be a possibility. Such a NS-based project isn’t to be confused with the proposed Colonial Intermodal Center development also proposed for Bluefield.

In fact, city officials broke ground just last week on the railroad and coal heritage interpretive walk phase of the Colonial Intermodal Project last week. That project seeks to connect bus traffic with pod sites for business growth. But the Colonial Intermodal Center project would be developed adjacent to the NS railroads — so a rail connection isn’t out of consideration — provided the city can still come up with the remaining millions needed to develop the original Colonial Intermodal Center vision.

But the bulk transfer site sought by the development authority members are terminals that are top-quality, rail-to-truck and truck-to-rail transfer facilities. The facilities are owned and managed by Norfolk Southern. And they are operated by and licensed to independent contractors who are experts in bulk transfer and distribution.

In addition, the facilities are open to all qualified third-party truckers, paved, designed to control runoff in order to protect the environment, have a fenced and lighted security area, a truck scale, truck wash and are equipped with the latest transfer machinery.

While a hopeful idea, Meachum notes that such discussions are just beginning, and any action relative to the project is still in the very early planning stages.

We would urge the development authority members to aggressively pursue the bulk transfer site in conjunction with NS. Such a project is still a good fit for Mercer County, and the Bluefield area in particular.