West Virginia officials approve leasing railway facility

July 2, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia regulators have voted to allow a private company to lease a state-owned railroad container facility that officials say loses about a half million dollars a year.

The state Public Port Authority on Tuesday approved the motion for the Heartland Intermodal Gateway facility in Prichard. Officials will now be able to find a company to take over the center on a short-term lease until state officials figure out what to do with the facility.

State Transportation Secretary Byrd White said the most recent figures showed it cost $522,000 to run the facility but that it only earned roughly $17,000 in income.

“You don’t have to be a CPA,” he jokingly told the board before trailing off to laughs.

White said one company had expressed interest in leasing the facility and that another was also looking into it. He told board members that the lease could be for a year or shorter. Longer-term, White floated the idea that the state may auction off the center.

The $32 million facility opened in 2015 on 76 acres donated by Norfolk Southern railroad. It is designed to move containers more efficiently by rail through a double-stack method while offering a cheaper alternative to gas-guzzling trucks.

There are dozens of intermodal facilities across North America. This is the first in West Virginia. The nearest such facility is 140 miles to the west in Georgetown, Kentucky. Officials had hoped the terminal could mirror the growth generated by other facilities in places such as Front Royal, Virginia, and Greer, South Carolina.

In the fiscal 2020 budget, Republican Gov. Jim Justice defunded the Public Port Authority, which is part of the state Department of Transportation.

“Losing half a million dollars a year does not make much anybody happy, and I think the governor is in that boat,” said White.

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