CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Public Port Authority decided Wednesday to delay a final decision on the future of the Heartland Intermodal Gateway in Prichard.
State Transportation Secretary Byrd White wants to sell the Wayne County facility. He said it’s never really worked like supporters thought it would.
“It never got the volume (of customers) it needed to sustain itself,” White said during a recent appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.” “It wasn’t right for the taxpayers of the state of West Virginia to continue to subsidize it.”
The intermodal port, which opened in 2015, was designed to create a point to offload freight from truck to train or vice-versa for export overseas or to other parts of the country.
White said there have been a number of problems and most associated with not having enough customers and not having the right mix customers.
“Toyota was importing some of their parts and pieces in 20-foot containers. The timber industry that wants to export stuff needs 40-foot containers,” White said.
There’s no money in the new state budget for the facility. White said the expenses last year totaled $500,000 while the facility only made $17,000.
“It doesn’t take CPA to figure out that’s not working,” White said.
The Port Authority is trying to decide whether to lease the property or put it up for auction. Members voted Wednesday to get lease proposals in by the end of the month while also make plans to hire an auctioneer in case they go the route that White supports.
“My preference is to auction the property and let private enterprise run it,” he said.
Several Wayne County officials attended Wednesday’s meeting and asked the authority to delay any final decision. They said the facility hasn’t gotten the support it’s needed from the governor’s office.
White said to his knowledge most, if not, all other intermodal facilities around the country are operated by the private sector. White said the state has also heard from Norfolk Southern that unless volume increases it will stop serving the facility as an intermodal facility.