The Heartland Corridor is a $190 million public-private partnership among Norfolk Southern, the Federal Highway Administration, and three US states to improve railroad freight operations. The project was developed to facilitate more efficient travel between the Norfolk, VA ports and Chicago, IL.
The project increased clearances in tunnels to allow the use of double-stack intermodal trains, increasing capacity, reducing transit times, shortening the previous double-stack route by 200 miles, and reducing tractor-trailer traffic. Clearances were raised for 28 tunnels and 24 other overhead obstacles while minimizing impacts to ongoing railroad operations in the corridor. Approximately 5.7 miles of tunnels were modified. The new, shorter routing reduces travel times from the Norfolk ports to Chicago by one to three days total.
Customer Attractivity – the reduction in travel time moves products to market in less time, saving the manufacturers' inventory costs, providing energy savings that result in transportation cost savings, and promoting reduced highway congestion.
Aesthetic Quality – existing stone and concrete tunnel portals were preserved at a majority of locations, and historic bridges were minimally modified, preserving the historical texture of t he rail corridor.
Sustainability & Reliability – making the rail mode faster makes it more competitive with trucks while reducing carbon emissions and highway congestion by shifting containerized cargo from trucks to rail.
Economic Efficiency – the project enlarged and lined a previously unlined tunnel with a history of rock falls, eliminating a high maintenance area and improving the reliability of the corridor. The project also included extensive drainage improvements and used asphalt underlayment to control water infiltration and ballast contamination, reducing maintenance costs and improving the reliability of the corridor.
Innovative Project Delivery – due to time and the operational constraints that required all work to be done in tightly constrained track windows, the Observational Approach, which substantially reduced the duration and cost of design phase field investigations, was implemented. The Observational Approach is an adaptation of the Sequential Excavation Method and requires Construction Phase monitoring by engineering and inspection staff familiar with tunneling and geology. The approach also allowed the construction to be initiated earlier in the project cycle, reducing the project delivery time and allowing NS and its customers to realize project benefits sooner.