I-81 plays a critical business role in Tri-State

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Time is money on Interstate 81, according to business leaders who addressed members of the I-81 Corridor Coalition Tuesday.

Joshua Martin, director of business control for Volvo Group’s factory near Hagerstown, said the plant depends on 30 to 60 trucks arriving each day with parts and materials for its production lines.

The company keeps a "small safety stock" on hand, but an unexpected halt in the production lines can cost the company as much as $700 a minute, Martin said.

Ryan Moore, human resources department leader for the new Procter & Gamble plant being built in Berkeley County, W.Va., said 130 to 200 trucks will leave that facility each day with consumer products.

From the company’s standpoint, it is critical that those goods get to store shelves on time.

"You’re not going to go a day without toilet paper because Charmin wasn’t there," Moore said.

About 75 people attended the coalition’s meeting, held at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg. Meeting attendees ranged from governmental officials to representatives of consulting and engineering firms.

"This corridor is one of the most intensive freight corridors in the country" and "the primary north-south freight corridor on the Eastern Seaboard," Andy Alden, the coalition’s executive director, said after the meeting. "And so because of that, we have a lot of trucks out there."

Speakers addressed freight and trucking issues, as well as advances in technology and highway upgrades.

"We’ve got a lot going on in Maryland to improve 81," Steve Bucy, assistant district engineer-construction for the Maryland State Highway Administration’s District 6, told the group.

He talked about several projects that have been previously announced or are in progress, including the rehabilitation and widening of the I-81 bridges over the Potomac River.

Bucy showed photos of the temporary span Triton Construction Inc. has built across the river between the northbound and southbound bridges.

The span will serve as a work platform for crews as they erect piers to support widening the bridges from two lanes in each direction to three lanes in each direction.

The temporary span can be removed when high water levels are anticipated, he said.

"It’s an innovative system the contractor came up with," Bucy said.

‘Arrive on time’

Martin, director of business control at Volvo, said the plant makes engines, transmissions and axles.

"Pretty much every part that we purchase travels on Interstate 81, and it’s got to arrive on time," he said.

The plant north of Hagerstown ships its components north on I-81 to a Mack assembly plant in Pennsylvania and south on I-81 to a Volvo assembly plant in Virginia, he said.

The facility near Hagerstown also is home to "one of the most advanced testing sites in the world," Martin said.

As a result, a test fleet of about 70 vehicles uses the interstate and other area roads for real-world exercises, he said.

In addition, I-81 is a critical route for many of the company’s 1,500 employees as they commute to work each day, said Martin, who lives in Williamsport.

"It’s only a 10-minute drive (to the plant). Sometimes it takes 30 or 40 minutes to get to work when there are incidents," he said.

P&G plant

Moore said the new P&G plant under construction at Tabler Station Business Park is slated to open in the fall with about 300 employees.

The number of employees will increase to about 700 by the fall of 2019, he said.

Moore estimated 60 to 80 trucks will arrive at the plant each day with materials, and 130 to 200 will head out each day with finished products.

Employees will be coming "from every which direction," he said.

The plant’s location along I-81 helps P&G take advantage of its corporate supply network, which includes distribution centers in Shippensburg, Pa., Dayton, Ohio, and Atlanta, Ga., according to Moore.

"We’re going to be making Bounce dryer sheets as our first product," he said.