Etowah County industrial site could be connected to Port of Mobile rail project

A major industrial site in Etowah County could be connected to a major Port of Mobile rail project.

Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday said the Norfolk Southern Railroad, using its funds and federal state money, would invest in $231.6 million of rail improvements from Mobile through Jefferson and Shelby counties. The project, known as the A-USA Corridor, is expected to connect to Little Canoe Creek, a 1,000-acre site off Interstate 59 in Etowah County targeted for industrial development.

The corridor will aim to improve the movement of goods out of the state port, which has seen an uptick in imports amid high demand for goods.

“Creating good port access to central Alabama is a key part of this initiative, and it can provide options for freight containers to reach new destinations inland, which our country has struggled with during the supply chain crisis,” Ivey said in a statement. “I am proud our state is looking ahead and investing in the Alabama-USA Corridor and the future jobs and economic opportunity it will bring.”

Connor Spielmaker, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern, wrote in an email Tuesday that the company has begun “peripheral” work on the project, with the start of a $71.6 million Phase I project — linking the Port with the McCalla Intermodal Facility in Birmingham — in 2023. 

“The corridor project does a number of things — the primary aspect of Phase I is improvements that would allow for double-stacked intermodal trains to and from the Port,” Spielmaker wrote. “In addition, there will be siding extensions, signal improvements, and expansion of the McCalla Yard to support the growth occurring both new and expanded along this corridor.”

A message seeking comment was sent Tuesday to the Alabama State Port Authority. Gina Maiola, a spokeswoman for Ivey, referred questions Tuesday to Norfolk Southern.

Norfolk Southern has identified Little Canoe Creek as a “prime site” and invested millions of dollars in aiding Etowah County’s hopes of attracting firms there.

“It’s a major project for the railroad and a huge move in the right direction for Little Canoe Creek,” said Shane Ellison, the chief administrative officer of Etowah County.  “With continued investment in our mega site from multiple entities, Etowah County has positioned itself well for future development.”

David Hooks, director of the Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority, said they were “excited” to see Little Canoe Creek included in the project.

“The Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority views this as another step in connecting Gadsden and Etowah County to the global logistics supply chain that is so critical in today’s economy,” he said.

Hooks said the project came to fruition over a two-year period, which included meetings at the IDA with Norfolk Southern, Etowah County, and Gadsden officials.

The governor’s office said the first phase of the project would focus on rail improvements at 12 “track, signal, and yard improvements” at sites in Mobile, Selma, and Birmingham. Norfolk Southern will pay most of the costs, according to the governor’s office. The state is contributing $5 million. The balance will come from grants from the federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program.

The project will also aim to link industrial development sites in Calera in Shelby County and sites in Washington, Mobile, and Jefferson counties.

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or