By Brian Dunn

Thanks to the extension of Autoroute 30 to its doorstep, and the opening of CSX’ intermodal terminal a stone’s throw away, the port of Valleyfield is poised to see business mushroom. In fact, the extension of Autoroute 30 was a major impetus for the rail company to build its $100 million intermodal terminal in Valleyfield, about 70 kilometres west of Montreal, and slated to open by yearend.

“It wasn’t just the 30,” explained Parker McCrary, Director of Product Development with CSX in Jacksonville, FL. “Valleyfield connects us to our northwest hub in Ohio and to our 23,000 miles (36,000 km) network of track. We need enough point-to-point density to justify our costs, and Valleyfield with Autoroute 30 is a new hub to connect to our other hubs in the U.S., like Atlanta, Florida and into Mexico. “Historically, you could only serve some markets by truck. For example, the only option until now between Montreal and Jacksonville was Interstate 95.”

CSX’ history in Quebec dates back to the St. Lawrence and Adirondack Railway Company which established operations in the province in 1888 before being acquired by New York Central and Hudson River Railroad in 1898 which was then taken over by Conrail in 1976. CSX acquired Conrail in 1999.

The Valleyfield intermodal terminal will have 36 full-time employees and cost about $6.7 million a year to operate. It will create another 300 indirect jobs from services like maintenance, warehousing operations, drayage and snow removal, according to CSX.

The terminal sits on 89 acres (36 hectares) of land in Valleyfield’s industrial park next to Autoroute 30 and has a capacity to handle 100,000 containers a year which is the company’s five-year target. To get to that target, CSX is approaching transportation intermediaries, trucking companies, freight forwarders and intermodal marketing companies. “We’re working with trucking companies we already have a relationship with such as Groupe Robert and C.A.T. They’ll bring traffic to CSX and we’ll do the long haul,” said Mr. McCrary.

CSX and partner Union Pacific have a fleet of railroad-owned UMAX 53-ft dry van containers. A potential customer like Groupe Robert could use a UMAX container to transport freight from Valleyfield to another point on the CSX network where the freight will be delivered. “Groupe Robert would not be responsible for the expense of returning the empty UMAX container to Valleyfield. CSX will work with other customers for the container’s next load,” Mr. McCrary explained. In addition, trucking companies can expand their portfolio of services through CSX which reaches 66 per cent of the U.S. population and serves over 70 ports.

CSX is hoping to achieve a 50-50 balance between goods coming north and those going south, led by auto parts where there is a lot of trade in both directions and in components for manufactured goods like textiles and carpets. There are also large warehouses in close proximity that need to be filled.

“Walmart and Target each have one million sq. ft. warehouses in Cornwall and Canadian Tire has a 750,000 sq ft warehouse in Les Cedres, all within a 30-minute drive from Valleyfield,” Mr. McCrary pointed out. “There is also the potential of a logistics hub being considered for Vaudreuil by the Quebec government.”

CSX is targeting areas beyond Cornwall for growth. It considers Ottawa and even Quebec City as potential markets. “If you look how traffic flows, goods from Quebec City are trucked on Autoroute 40 then they could take the 30 to our terminal. The same applies to Ottawa. Trucks have to pass by here on their way east.”

While CSX’ intermodal terminal doesn’t connect directly to the port of Valleyfield, Mr. McCrary sees a lot of synergies being created with its arrival to improve overall efficiencies in intermodal operations. The same applies with the port of Montreal.

“It’s hard to compare Valleyfield and Montreal. They have 4,000 TEU container ships, while Valleyfield operates in the 1,200 TEU range and mainly services the north.”

Mr. McCrary has nothing but praise for Denis Lapointe, Mayor of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield and his administration who were instrumental in landing the CSX terminal for the town. “If it had not been for their willingness to work with CSX, this project would not have happened.”