Next-Generation Intermodal Facility

Summer 2014
Three high-tech automated cranes at CSX Intermodal Terminals’ new Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center can stack containers up to four high while continuing to operate above the stacks. Photos courtesy of CSX

When the Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center opened this spring in Winter Haven, it created not only what is considered to be the most technologically advanced freight logistics terminal in the nation, but also one that could well become an economic engine for the region. In addition to the 318-acre terminal, which will act as a centralized hub for transportation, logistics and distribution servicing Orlando, Tampa and South Florida, the project is surrounded by 930 acres of land that is planned for development of up to 7.9 million square feet of warehouse distribution centers, light industrial and office facilities.

head shot of Whitt Wilby

Wilby Whitt

“This is one of the most modern centers in the world today,” said Wilby Whitt, president of CSX Intermodal Terminals Inc.: “Each time we open a new facility, the technology advances as quickly as iPhone technology. That is, each and every terminal is more efficient and effective than the previous one.”

This is not the only new intermodal logistics center that is opening this year. Later in the year, CSX Intermodal Terminals will open a new 89-acre intermodal terminal in the city of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield in Quebec. This will be CSX’s first terminal with intermodal capabilities in the Canadian market. It will enable the railroad to connect with a network of terminals in the eastern portion of the U.S. In addition to the Canadian terminal, CSX is expanding its northern Ohio hub intermodal facility in 2014 to increase the facility’s capacity by 80 percent. The company also is planning a new intermodal center in Pittsburgh, which it hopes to complete in 2016.

crane loading a CSX cargo container

According to Whitt, the new facilities are dramatically more efficient than older ones. An older intermodal facility would require 300 to 400 acres of storage to handle 1.5 million containers a year. The new facilities can do the same job on 50 to 60 acres.

“The industry today is 95 percent containers and 5 percent trailers,” said Whitt. “In addition, we are building ‘grounded facilities,’ which gives us the ability to place containers directly on the ground and stack them 300 to 400 containers to the acre.”

The Winter Haven terminal features five 3,000-foot loading tracks and two 10,000-foot arrival and departure tracks. The terminal is expected to process up to 300,000 containers a year. Three large cranes span all of the tracks, to unload containers from train to truck and truck to train.

table listing green initiatives at CSX's Central Florida Logistics Center

The major difference between the new Winter Haven cranes and older cranes is the degree of automation that the new cranes offer. The terminal operating system optimizes all of the cranes’ functions so that the equipment continuously runs in the most efficient and effective manner, calculating time, distance and schedules into all of its moves, according to Whitt. In addition to loading trucks and trains directly, this equipment has the ability to stack containers nearby, five or six units wide and four units high. The massive cranes then continue to operate over the tops of these stacks.

The state-of-the-art terminal is also environmentally friendly, featuring numerous green initiatives. (See “Green Initiatives at CSX’s Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center" below.) 

CSX will close its Orlando intermodal facility and shift containerized freight previously handled there to Winter Haven. CSX Transportation will serve the region’s intermodal market from the new facility in Winter Haven and its Taft yard in Orlando will continue to serve other rail freight needs.

Florida Chamber Foundation Urges Logistics/Manufacturing Corridor

The creation of an inland Florida logistics and manufacturing corridor partnership was supported by the Florida Chamber Foundation in a recently published research report titled “Florida: Made for Trade.”

“Multiple plans and proposals have emerged to develop distribution and manufacturing facilities in inland Florida,” the study notes, “with many clustering around a corridor roughly formed by U.S. 27 from Miami to Central Florida, and then I-75 to the Georgia state line.”

The study anticipates that over time, this corridor could connect:

  • Numerous intermodal logistics centers around Lake Okeechobee;
  • Inland airports with land to grow;
  • Large freight and distribution businesses in Polk County, including CSX’s intermodal terminal in Winter Haven; and
  • Planned or proposed intermodal logistics centers and distribution centers on I-75 in Sumter, Marion and Columbia counties.
crane that loads cargo containers

Another view of a state-of-the-art crane at the Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center, which is expected to process up to 300,000 containers a year.

“The tributaries that feed this corridor connect to all parts of the Florida peninsula including the seaports, airports and freight hubs in Southeast Florida, Southwest Florida, Tampa Bay, Central Florida and Northeast Florida,” notes the study. “Regional and local partners should explore the benefits of developing a major north-south logistics and manufacturing corridor in this general area through proactive transportation investments, targeted site development, compatible land use strategies, and focused economic development programs.”

For more information:

Florida: Made for Trade, Florida Trade and Logistics Study 2.0,” Florida Chamber Foundation, 2013