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Norfolk Southern is gearing up for the opening of Maersk’s Portsmouth facility. The railroad will spend $130 million — plus $90 million in U.S. government funding — either raising the roof or lowering the floor of 29 tunnels along a track called the Heartland Corridor, its most direct route from Portsmouth to Columbus.

This will enable Norfolk Southern to run double-stacked trains — double-stacked containers mean more goods on the rails and higher profits for the railroads — on the route, instead of sending them on detours via Pennsylvania or Tennessee.

“This will save a day’s travel and hundreds of miles,” Norfolk Southern Chief Marketing Officer Don Seale said.

The railroad also will build an intermodal facility at Columbus. Intermodal transport refers to the containers, whose size is standardized and can be shifted easily between modes of transport, from ship to train to truck.

In Columbus, Duke Realty has up to 20 million square feet available for retailers and logistics companies looking to distribute goods to consumers. Duke touts the fact that the Ohio city is within 600 miles of 150 million Americans — half the U.S. population.

“We are getting a lot of interest in this project,” said Jim Clark, Duke’s senior vice president in charge of the company’s Columbus development. “The agents coming to see us know exactly what they’re looking for.”

Another major railroad, CSX Corp., also has lines from Portsmouth to Columbus and is investing to prepare for additional container volume from China.

Jim Hertwig, head of CSX’s intermodal business, said the company is preparing its lines into the southern United States for double-stacked trains and will expand its Parsons Yard intermodal facility at Columbus.

CSX has announced plans to invest $800 million in capacity expansion in 2006 and 2007. The company is also gearing up for a $100 million project to expand a terminal in its hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., by Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd.

“We’re going to see more containers coming into the country through the East Coast,” Mr. Hertwig said. “Our job is to make sure we have the capacity to handle those goods when they get here.”