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Intermodal hub positions Alabama in Norfolk Southern’s future

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — You can almost gauge the state of the economy by watching the train and truck traffic at Norfolk Southern Corp.’s Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility (BRIMF).

Shipping containers packed with everything from retail goods bound for stores to auto parts bound for factories move in and out of the $97.5 million, 316-acre facility in McCalla.

An increasing number of vehicles from various automakers are moving through the facility bound for Alabama dealerships. In fact, the volume of vehicles being shipped through the facility prompted a decision to expand the center’s automotive holding area, an official giving a tour of the facility said.

Located across the tracks from the Jefferson Metropolitan Park McCalla – the Jefferson County-owned and operated industrial park – the BRIMF brings in anywhere from five to 15 trains a day. While most are the familiar container trains, a growing number are enclosed train cars carrying cars and trucks from automakers and distributors across the country or in Alabama.

There are two intermodal tracks that run onto the site and another four holding tracks where trains can be stacked waiting to come onto the facility for loading and unloading before continuing their treks down the tracks.


Randy Bayles, director of International Intermodal for Norfolk Southern Corp., said the company has invested many millions of dollars in expanding its intermodal infrastructure throughout the eastern half of the U.S. No facility is more modern than the one in Birmingham, he said.

“I know your Commerce Department has the slogan ‘Made in Alabama’ but we like to add that it’s ‘Moved by Norfolk Southern,’” Bayles told supply chain and logistics officials in Birmingham.

Bayles said despite steady activity at the BRIMF, the facility is not yet operating near capacity — a sign of the slow economic recovery, he said. Still, Alabama is positioned to figure prominently in Norfolk Southern’s operations and in intermodal shipping going forward.

The railroad company had more than 1,372 miles of rail route track in Alabama at the end of 2013. Last year, it moved 50,000 containers in and out of Alabama and that number should increase this year.

Norfolk Southern accounts for 1,800 jobs in the state with an annual payroll of $102 million, Bayles said.


As the volume shipped through the BRIMF increases, officials hope to see the center’s economic impact grow. Other intermodal facilities have given rise to distribution centers, as well as trucking and manufacturing operations as companies locate close to those facilities.

Patrick Murphy, economic development manager with Alabama Power Co., helped recruit the intermodal facility to McCalla and continues to work with Norfolk Southern to help it grow its operations and lure new industry as a result.

“Intermodal using rail and local or regional truck delivery has emerged as one of the most efficient ways to move any number of products and that efficiency already benefits many Alabama businesses,” Murphy said. “But there is potential for an even greater economic development impact as companies look to locate or expand their distribution operations as a result of this facility being in McCalla.

“The hope is we will see that potential realized as the Norfolk Southern Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility grows,” he added.

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