Railroad inland port discussed

Published 11:29 am Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Melody Foster

CRC Executive Director Melody Foster gave an overview and an update of the proposed inland port by Buckingham Branch Railroad that could potentially be located in the Town of Keysville.

Foster said the CRC’s involvement in the inland port proposal had come out of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)’s recent stakeholder meeting held at Southside Virginia Community College’s Workforce Development Center in Keysville, after speaking with Buckingham Branch Railroad Director of Sales and Marketing Brian Freeman, who requested the CRC’s assistance.

She said that she attended a meeting with Freeman at the Heartland Industrial Development Authority that took place Oct. 23.

Freeman, during the Oct. 23 meeting, defined an inland port as a location where containerized freight can be moved to or from a coastal location to an inland location for further distribution.

He said that in addition to an inland port having potential benefits for the region and for industries that are looking beyond tractor trailers or cargo ships for large-scale distribution of goods, he said that the Heartland Industrial Park is located in an enterprise zone, that it is approximately 100 miles from several large manufacturers and distribution centers, including centers in Farmville, Danville and Lynchburg, and owned by local government.

Freeman said the port would most likely be contingent on whether a Class-1 railroad company supports the port location.

Freeman said the target market area would be from Roanoke to Keysville, primarily south of Highway 460 and north of the North Carolina border.

“A truck trying to go from Roanoke all the way to the port of Virginia, that’s going to take them an entire day,” Freeman said during the presentation. “That same driver would much rather come halfway, drop it here in Keysville, and get back and stay with their families that night.”

Freeman said he reached out to a Class-1 railroad company about the possibility of developing a port in Keysville.

Foster said after the Oct. 23 meeting that she and Longwood Small Business Development Center Executive Director Sheri McGuire worked to put together a meeting with Longwood and with representatives of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Logistics, known as CCAL. Foster said Longwood is set to take a lead in helping Buckingham Branch Railroad conduct a market research study.

“We’re just staying in the loop,” Foster said. She said that the CRC can provide grant writing assistance if needed for the project.

CRC member Mike Hankins said the inland port could be conducive to bringing other businesses to the Heartland Industrial Park and improving the regional economy over time.

“It would be a prime site for distribution centers,” Hankins said.