JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Conrail and port officials here may join together to build a waterfront rail link to New York harbor's largest auto import terminal, a project that would help New York grab shipping customers from Baltimore.
A senior executive with Northeast Auto-Marine Terminal, which handles import preparation for Mazda, Hyundai and Peugeot at a waterfront site here, said the new link should be complete by 1991.
It will be vital in pulling auto import shipments away from New York's leading competitor, Baltimore, he said.
"They have one distinct advantage at this time, which is their rail access," said Andrew Vogt, executive vice president of Northeast, about Baltimore's import network.
"I'm not sure what the implication is for Baltimore," J. C. Shay, spokesman for the Maryland Port Administration, said last night. "I certainly hope it doesn't take any of our business away. We're going to maintain our market in the Toyota automobiles as much as we can."
Northeast projects that a new rail spur, if completed, would help lift New York's share of auto imports from 377,000 cars handled in 1989. The port handled 443,000 automobiles the year before.
The port of Baltimore handled 313,000 cars in 1989, down from 380,000 in the prior year.
Jacksonville, Fla., the other major East Coast auto import port, handled 371,000 import autos last year.
A top port authority official confirmed that the project was being worked on at the agency and at Conrail in Philadelphia, but he said the rail link had not been given final approval.
Lillian C. Liburdi, director of the port department at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey would only term the project a "possibility."
Northeast, which opened in November 1989, is one of the newest, most heavily used auto import terminals in the New York-New Jersey port, with an ability to send out asmany as 1,500 shiny, finished cars a day, and offload as many as 6,000 autos a day from the big ships that arrive at dockside at the 115-acre facility.
"I think there's enough business out there that the two ports will survive," said Mr. Vogt about the future trends in the auto import business for New York and Baltimore.