CSX railroad is expected to close its terminal on Lincoln Street after losing the only intermodal customer served there. David Grace photo.
KINGSPORT - CSX Transportation will likely close its Lincoln Street intermodal terminal after losing its sole intermodal customer in Kingsport.
CSX spokeswoman Meg Sacks said Tuesday the intermodal terminal only serves Eastman Chemical Co. and ships two loaded trains a week from the site.
However, Eastman recently notified CSX that it would no longer be using the intermodal rail service.
Sacks said CSX has notified its six employees at the intermodal terminal.
"We have been in touch with them about the possibility of the closure, and we'll work with them concerning what their other employment options may be," Sacks said.
CSX's main terminal in downtown Kingsport will not be impacted by the decision.
Sacks said CSX will continue to serve Eastman in other ways, such as hauling coal for the company's coal gasification processes.
She said there is no timeline for closing the Lincoln Street terminal.
"I would be reluctant to give one at this point simply because there are so many things to work out," Sacks said.
Eastman spokeswoman Betty Payne said the company has traditionally used the intermodal containers to ship products from Kingsport to ports in Charleston and Savannah for export to other countries.
But Eastman recently made the decision to start shipping those products by truck instead. The company will transition from rail shipments to truck shipments during the first quarter this year, Payne said.
"We will continue to use CSX for other things. The business decision to start using truck versus rail only affects the product that's going from here to the ports," Payne said.
The decision will increase truck traffic from Eastman by about 40 trucks per day, Payne said. That will add to the approximate 55,000 trucks going in and out of Eastman last year.
"It will put more trucks on the road," Payne said.
She didn't have information about what those additional trucks will be transporting but said about 10 percent of Eastman's current shipments from the plant are classified as hazardous materials.
"It's the same stuff we've always been sending out. It's just that it's no longer going by rail. It's going by truck," Payne said.
She said Eastman will begin participating in a "repositioning program" which will "actually allow Eastman to be more efficient in its overall use of trucking."
Payne explained the repositioning program. She said that in traditional truck shipments, products are loaded in containers at the port and sent to a destination point. After unloading is complete, the empty containers are hauled back to the ports for another load.
In the repositioning program, once a container is unloaded, another company in the same region can request the container and fill it with its export products for shipment back to the port.
"Under the repositioning program, companies up here in this area who are needing an empty container to send something to port can get that container and send it back to the port full," Payne said.
"So we plan to be doing that. We'll be collecting empty containers that are up here and shipping some of our stuff back," she said.
Payne said the repositioning program will cut Eastman's overall shipping costs.
"Because of the cost and our need to remain competitive, what we've been doing isn't a good business option anymore, and that's why we're making the change," Payne said.
Sacks said the terminal closure will not impact CSX's participation with the Santa Train, an annual rail excursion coordinated by CSX and the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce.