Vice President Joe Biden called for greater public investment in transportation infrastructure during a Feb. 17 visit to a logistics yard east of Memphis, Tennessee.
Dignitaries in suits and railroad workers in orange vests and hard hats listened as Biden spoke after touring the Memphis Regional Intermodal Facility south of Rossville, Tennessee.
Biden said America can compete well with any nation in the world in attracting business because of favorable factors ranging from fair courts to productive workers. "But guess what?" he said. "If we do not improve our infrastructure — if we do not improve it — we will not take advantage of being able to lock down for the next 40 years that we remain the best place in the world to invest."
Biden spoke at a big logistics yard where cargo containers are transferred between trains and trucks. Federal funds helped pay for the facility.
Biden noted investment in transportation creates jobs and draws businesses. "You're going to make the region a haven. Because you're going to be able to pull up to the Rossville depot and put your product in the back of a train and you can get it anywhere from New Orleans to New York City."
The event illustrates the potential economic development in Rossville, a small town near Collierville, a major suburb. Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner was among those who heard Biden's speech. He said Collierville doesn't necessarily expect growth in logistics jobs within its own limits, but the intermodal center could draw more businesses, and some of those employees would live in Collierville.
"I think we'll see some people move to town because of the jobs that are created by a facility like this," he said.
The vice president's visit is one of several he's making around the country to highlight the seven-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, an economic stimulus bill signed by President Obama in February 2009.
The intermodal facility was funded in part by a $52.5 million grant through the program. Most of the remaining cost of the $125 million project was covered by Norfolk Southern Corp., a railroad company.
The project faced opposition from some critics who said the big yard would cause groundwater pollution and ruin the rural character of the area. In response, builders removed dirt to sink the yard below ground level and build a big berm with trees to screen nearby residential areas. The yard opened in the summer of 2012.
In an intermodal system, the same cargo container can travel by ship, train or truck.
Representatives of Norfolk Southern say intermodal facilities allow them to shift longhaul traffic to trains, which save fuel. Trucks are reserved for shorter distances. The Rossville facility is one of four in the Memphis metro area.