The Governor of Alabama Kay Ivey launched an initiative to create an Alabama-USA rail corridor, a proposed USD 231.6 million programme of rail projects to upgrade economic development infrastructure in central and southern Alabama. The project will be implemented under a public-private partnership with Norfolk Southern which will provide funding for more than 50 per cent of the project.
Under the project, Alabama will invest USD 5 million, Norfolk Southern will provide USD 5.7 million and the remaining investment will be covered by future federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Programme (CRISI) grants through the Alabama Department of Transportation, in partnership with Norfolk Southern.
The first phase of the so-called A-USA Corridor involves a USD 71.6 million to link the Port of Mobile with the McCalla intermodal facility near Birmingham. This 450.6 km (280 mile) rail corridor will also link mega economic development sites in Etowah, Shelby and Washington/Mobile counties, each totaling more than 1,000 acres. A fourth site in Jefferson County (McCalla) will see the development of a 104-acre site with up to a million square-feet of warehousing under roof.
“Creating good port access to central Alabama is a key part of this initiative, and it can provide options for freight containers to reach new destinations inland, which our country has struggled with during the supply chain crisis,” the governor said.
The Growing Alabama Tax Credit programme has helped expedite the work required to make these sites immediately available for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution. To that end, Norfolk Southern has already partnered with the state and local economic development authorities by investing USD 5.7 million to the Etowah County Commission for improvements to the Little Canoe Creek site, in Etowah.
A critical component in the growth and success of the port and themega sites is efficient transport access. While each of the sites are near major interstate highways, modern and efficient freight and intermodal rail infrastructure is necessary to meet the port’s rapid growth and the region’s economic expansion needs. Phase One of the Alabama-USA rail corridor project involves 12 specific tracks, signalling and yard improvements on Norfolk Southern rail lines between Mobile, Selma and Birmingham.
According to an economic impact report prepared by the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business during 2000-2020, the corridor provided new and expanded economic development investments totalling USD 14.3 billion with 20,498 jobs in Alabama.
During the construction phases of the project the A-USA Corridor which will create positive economic benefits for Alabama of USD 497.2 million in gross business activity, including USD 184.8 million in earnings to 4,247 direct and indirect Alabama workers. During construction USD 13.1 million in state and local taxes will be generated.