NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — MeadWestvaco Corp. will shift to rail to ship 10,000 tons of a paper a month from its Covington plant to the Newport News Marine Terminal.
The paper company's decision to move its product by rail will remove at least 400 trucks a week from the crowded Interstate 64 corridor from western Virginia to Newport News.
MeadWestvaco Corp., based in suburban Richmond, will save the company money and be more environmentally friendly, said Chris Osen, Mead's vice president of supply management.
Eliminating more than 400 semitrailers ''could have a very noticeable impact'' on I-64 traffic flow, said Dwight Farmer, deputy executive director for transportation with the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.
An average of 5,928 use I-64 in the Newport News area daily, according to Virginia Department of Transportation figures.
''It's not going to solve all of the congestion in that corridor,'' he said. ''But it's great news to hear that. Each truck can equal two or three automobiles when it comes to capacity. Now if we could just get other businesses to follow suit.''
The move also will add up to 15 jobs at the port in the near term with the potential for more as the business expands, said Joe Dorto, general manager of Virginia International Terminals, which operates the Newport News port.
In response to rapid growth of Mead and other paper businesses, VIT is building a 200,000-square-foot warehouse at the Newport News site that it hopes to have complete by June, Dorto said.
That warehouse also should create jobs, he said: ''You build it, and hopefully, they'll come.''
Rail business at the port of Hampton Roads is up almost 30 percent this year, Dorto said.
A major contributor is a weak U.S. dollar, which is driving foreign demand for U.S. products, especially in commodities and agricultural products. From July through October, container shipments through the port of Hampton Roads jumped 5.3 percent, mostly because of exports.
A key focus of Mead's growth is to expand into emerging global markets, including Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Helping the company distribute products there will be Lydall Distribution Services, a paper and wood pulp import and export concern that operates at the port of Newport News. As part of the rail deal, Lydall and Mead signed an exclusive agreement for Lydall to handle all of Mead's rail shipments here.
The contract represents the first long-term deal Lydall has inked at its Newport News operation, said Peter Frye, operations manager.
''It's going to be a very significant part of our operations,'' Frye said.