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New Rail Depots Seek to Hitch Local Truck Delivery to Interstate Transportation System
To help reduce truck trips on highly trafficked major thoroughfares, truck/rail depots are springing up in urban and suburban areas served by a railroad.
Part of the category called intermodals -- which utilize a combination of transportation modes to move freight -- the truck/rail terminals take advantage of the country's extensive network of railroads that serve major metropolitan regions.
Commercial bakeries shipping tons of flour, quarries shipping crushed stone to make asphalt, and contractors getting lumber and other building materials are all among the industries that are using truck/rail depots for their transportation needs. One rail car can carry more freight than nearly four tractor trailers, using less fuel and reducing air pollution.
On Long Island, Ohio-based US Rail has built an intermodal that accepts heavy freight from the Island's commuter rail system and then transfers the cargo to trucks for local deliveries. The terminal will take at least 40,000 trucks off the world's longest parking lot (a.k.a the Long Island Expressway) in its first year of operation and it is projected to handle about a million tons of freight per year by 2016.
The concept has been catching on. Intermodal container volume set a new record in 2011 with 12.4 million moves, beating former record-year 2007 by a sizeable 3.7 percent, according to the Intermodal Association of North America. In the first six months of this year intermodal shipments increased by 3.2 percent.
Rail freight industry officials call the truck/rail depots a significant step in lowering the cost of shipping goods: reducing long-haul truck traffic, creating an enhanced short-haul trucking industry with smaller more efficient trucks, increasing local jobs and reducing air emissions and reliance on foreign oil supplies.