Intermodal Facilities: Load It Up

The right location plays a crucial role in moving cargo through combined transportation methods.

Intermodal facilitiesBy Nora Caley
From the January / February 2023 Issue

Intermodal facilities are more complex than ever. Consumers are buying many goods, and businesses are finding efficient ways to transport these items. Intermodal refers to the movement of cargo in shipping containers using more than one mode of transportation. The modes are typically rail, truck, marine, and air.

According to the Intermodal Association of North America, the North American intermodal industry generates more than $51 billion of annual revenue. A complex network of motor carriers, railroad, ocean carriers, and third-party logistics providers move 34.5 million containers. Also according to the association, the top categories of commodities being moved are consumer goods, industrial and bulk goods, and agricultural goods.

Using a combination of rail and truck to move goods has several environmental benefits. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in its report, “Intermodal Shipping, a Glance at Clean Freight Strategies,” noted that a freight train can carry much more cargo per gallon of fuel than trucks can, but trucks still move four times more than freight because trucks offer more service and scheduling options. If 10% of highway freight was moved by rail, more than one billion gallons of fuel would be saved each year.

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Whether due to environmental stewardship or a need to satisfy demand for goods more quickly and efficiently, intermodal facilities are updating and expanding their offerings. Here are some regions that are attracting intermodal services businesses.


Business success often relies on infrastructure and logistics, and Louisiana’s extensive port system, proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, and central location in the southern U.S. establish it as a powerful hub for global and domestic commerce.

Evolving and adapting is part of Louisiana’s logistics legacy, as evidenced by several features. Six Mississippi River deep draft ports combine to handle the most domestic cargo in the nation. There are six Class I railroads, spanning over 3,000 miles, and New Orleans is the only place in America where six Class I railroads converge with a deepwater seaport. More than 1,000 miles of interstate connect all corners of the state with major regional markets such as Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston. There are nearly 50,000 miles of pipelines, integrated to crisscross every major highway, railroad, and navigable waterway in the state. Finally, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port is the nation’s first and only deepwater oil port.

Intermodal facilities
The Port of New Orleans recently announced a $1.8 billion container facility expansion project that will dramatically increase the state’s import and export capacity. (Credit: Port NOLA)

The Port of New Orleans added to that legacy in December 2022 when it announced a public-private partnership to develop and operate the $1.8 billion Louisiana International Terminal (LIT) container facility. That expansion will dramatically increase Louisiana’s import and export capacity. At full build-out, LIT is expected to handle two million TEUs annually, taking advantage of the deeper 50-foot Lower Mississippi River Ship Channel and strengthening Louisiana’s ability to attract distribution centers, logistics services, and value-added services through Port NOLA’s multimodal connectivity.

These types of long-term infrastructure investments allow Louisiana’s ports to maintain their critical role in global supply chains, accounting for 25% of all U.S. waterborne commerce. They also help to explain why Louisiana is home to five of the top 15 U.S. ports by tonnage and the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in the country.

The Port of New Orleans announced a public-private partnership to develop and operate the $1.8 billion Louisiana International Terminal (LIT) container facility.

The expansion has been accompanied by innovation. In 2021, a forward-thinking partnership between the U.S. Department of Commerce, the State of Louisiana, and the nonprofit Water Institute of the Gulf developed the Lower Mississippi River SmartPort & Resilience Center, or SmartPort, to bring river navigation into the digital age.

Offering real-time data that can be shared by port administrators, shippers, tenants, cargo and ground transportation providers, SmartPort has been compared to the Waze motorist app, giving information that boosts efficiency by allowing users to assess critical operational factors such as tracking currents, river congestion, visibility, and weather conditions. SmartPort’s unique data-sharing solution enables the full spectrum of stakeholders—from captains to cargo companies and port operators—to pinpoint potential delays in operations and, in the process, significantly improve logistical capabilities.

The logistical advantages of doing business in Louisiana have placed it at the epicenter of world trade for centuries. Today, major public and private investments are ensuring that the state’s international commerce leadership role will be secure for generations to come.

For more information, visit


Oswego County, situated in Upstate New York, is located centrally to Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Toronto, and Montreal. With access to a deepwater port, plus rail, ground, and air transportation, Oswego County is the right choice for intermodal facilities.

The Port of Oswego is the first U.S. port of call and a deepwater port in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System. Located on Lake Ontario, on route to the interior of North America, the port is accessible from any international port in the world.

A few years ago, the Port expanded the Oswego Intermodal Center, east of the Port along the lakeshore, by constructing approximately 2,800 feet of rail connecting the intermodal center with the Port of Oswego. In addition, they built a 15,000-square-foot warehouse, improved security, and an armored stone revetment along the shoreline to protect rail expansion from erosion damage. In addition to transloading, shipments can also be stored on site for just-in-time transport.

Intermodal facilities
Ship entering the Oswego Harbor en route to the Port of Oswego. (Credit: Port of Oswego)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port of Oswego Authority recently signed an agreement to commence a project to deepen the Oswego Harbor. The first phase will be to complete a feasibility study. The project would deepen the harbor so it could accommodate Seawaymax Class freighters. At 740 feet long and 78 feet wide, with a 27-foot draft, they are the largest vessels that can fit through the locks in the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The latest improvement has been the purchase of a low-emission container reach stacker. This critical piece of equipment will significantly improve the Port’s ability to load and unload containers, both on cargo ships and rail cars, greatly expanding their operations.

The Port offers on-dock truck and rail loading capabilities, with service through CSX Railroad throughout the U.S. and Canada. CSX provides daily rail transportation to and from Oswego County. In addition to access at the Port, rail is available throughout the county, with direct access at several sites and industrial parks.

Oswego County’s extensive highway network provides hundreds of miles of efficient navigation. Interstates 81 and 90 provide north/south and east/west movement to major cities in the U.S. and Canada. Local carriers provide transloading from truck to rail and offer myriad warehouse storage options, including dry, climate controlled, and frozen.

The Oswego County Airport is ideal for business, industry, and private aviation. Syracuse Hancock International Airport is within minutes of Oswego County. In addition to worldwide passenger transport, Hancock has facilities for air freight transport including a 53,000-square-foot cargo building.

Oswego County’s industrial parks are strategically located to take advantage of this multimodal network. The parks are located either directly along a major highway, adjacent to the Oswego County Airport, or minutes from the Port of Oswego.

The Port of Oswego is the first U.S. port of call and a deepwater port in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System.

The combination of various forms of transportation with warehousing capabilities and specialized material handling equipment supports Oswego County’s stance as a true intermodal location. Products can get to any place they need to go, nationally or internationally, from Oswego County, New York.

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The Port of Virginia is investing $1.4 billion over the next four years to prepare for the future and create the deepest and most modern complex of container terminals on the U.S. East Coast. New state-of-the-art infrastructure and technology combined with The Virginia Model of Operation is reshaping North American supply chains and bringing business to and through this modern, growing port.

Several macroeconomic forces are driving growth in Virginia and many companies are taking advantage of the unique operating environment there thanks to the port’s progressive leadership. The COVID pandemic disrupted the global supply chain and forced ocean carriers and shippers to make very specific choices about which ports to use. In parallel, geo-political conflicts are creating additional challenges with the threat of renewed disruption to the supply chain a possibility. Together these trends are leading executives at the world’s biggest brands to completely rethink global sourcing and supply chain networks.

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Containerships at the semi-automated Virginia International Gateway terminal. (Credit: Port of Virginia)

Strategically positioned right in the middle of the East Coast with a deepwater harbor and room for expansion landside, The Port of Virginia is capitalizing on a differentiated operating platform appropriately named The Virginia Model. Unlike most ports, The Port of Virginia is not a “landlord” port. Rather, it both owns and operates its terminals, technology, equipment—including a chassis pool of 16,000-plus units—that gives the Virginia team unparalleled control and flexibility.

The result is customer-focused solutions tailored to help both shippers and their logistics partners create more reliability in the supply chain. In the past year, The Virginia Model has delivered for a global automotive brand when it needed parts to keep manufacturing online. It has delivered a new “reverse land bridge” rail service from east to west to help shippers fight congestion at California ports. Also, transportation infrastructure projects and new warehouse space throughout Virginia have continued to expand to the benefit of port-centric logistics operations.

Cargo volume at the port set another record in 2022, topping 3.7 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units). Offering productivity improvements and efficiency for shipping customers and logistics providers, the port is poised to meet the growing supply chain demands of tomorrow.

The Port of Virginia is investing $1.4B over the next four years to prepare for the future and create the deepest and most modern complex of container terminals on the U.S. East Coast.

With its $1.4 billion Gateway Investment Program, the port is investing in infrastructure and technology and building upon its position as one of the Western Hemisphere’s premiere, deepwater ports. Increasing the use of technology, expanding rail and chassis capacity and a 55-foot-deep channel that is wide enough to handle two ultra-large container ships at once ensures the port is ready to facilitate the reliable and sustainable movement of cargo today and tomorrow.

Underpinning this success is an expanding, experienced workforce that includes positions from skilled labor to finance to information technology. Given the region’s heavy military presence, The Port of Virginia and regional maritime interests have a unique advantage: The military provides a steady stream of skilled professionals that are ready for life in the private sector.

The future is moving to Virginia and The Port of Virginia is prepared for growth.

For more information, visit


Port Tampa Bay is perfectly positioned to provide supply chain efficiencies to the importers and exporters who serve the growing Central Florida region. Ships arriving at Port Tampa Bay experience no congestion or delays, and the Port has emerged as the preferred gateway to the region due to its proximity to the growing Tampa/Orlando I-4 Corridor market, with more than 400 distribution centers right in the region’s backyard.

Florida now has the 15th largest economy in the world and is the fastest-growing state in the country. Florida’s rapidly expanding population has already overtaken New York, making it the third-largest state. Home to nearly half of the state’s 22.2 million residents and welcoming a majority of the 140 million visitors each year, the Central Florida region is one of the fastest-growing areas of the state.

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Port Tampa Bay’s container volume has increased by 13% over the past year. (Credit: Port Tampa Bay)

The importers and exporters who support this huge consumer market are demanding a Florida-first supply chain strategy with expanded direct ocean container services. Home to the largest concentration of distribution centers in Florida, the region is also one of the hottest industrial real estate markets in the country and is Florida’s hub for distribution, e-commerce, energy products, food and beverage, logistics, construction materials, and manufacturing.

With expanded capacity to Florida’s distribution hub, Port Tampa Bay stands ready to welcome new business and serve as a supply chain alternative and solution. Port Tampa Bay’s container volume has increased by 13% over the past year and the port has easily accommodated this growth by staying ahead of the curve thanks to a terminal buildout program and working closely with terminal operator partner Ports America. Recent expansion has increased paved storage to 67 acres with a new gate complex currently under construction, and three more port-Panamax cranes scheduled for delivery early next year. The next phase will bring an additional 30 acres of paved storage, and a berth extension from 3,200 to 4,500 linear feet.

Port Tampa Bay’s proximity to the I-4 Corridor allows for multiple roundtrip deliveries per day from the port, compared to the traditional routes via congested out-of-state alternatives. This also reduces trucking costs and empty trucks on the road providing numerous economic and environmental benefits.

Port Tampa Bay has emerged as the preferred gateway to Central Florida, with 400+ distribution centers in the region’s backyard.

The Port offers a Florida-direct supply chain solution, with no congestion, weekly direct sailings from Asia, new Central America and Mexico services, on-dock cold storage, and northbound backhaul trucking capacity, which provides delivery cost savings to the southeast and beyond.

For more information, visit

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