PIC: Blue-Ridge-Connector-Rendering


PIC: GPA Gate-4


Inland developments key to the future growth of throughput for ocean terminals.

Georgia Port Authority, which encompasses the seaports of Savannah and Brunswick, and inland terminals in northern parts of the state, has made billions of dollars of investments in its port infrastructure, especially focused on developing inland connections for goods by rail and truck.

GPA’s master plan anticipates investing US$4.2 million over the next 10 years to expand cargo handling capabilities to meet future supply chain requirements. A considerable portion of that is aimed at projects expanding the port’s value inland.

“The outlook for Savannah’s industrial market is still favorable thanks to the continued growth at the Georgia Ports with conservative projections to eclipse 8 million TEUs of throughput by 2030,” said Stephen Ezelle, a real estate broker with Cushman & Wakefield in a report. “The operational efficiency offered by the GPA and shift in import cargo from the West Coast and New York-New Jersey are the key drivers in the growth of Savannah’s industrial market.”

Mason Mega Rail is the largest on-terminal intermodal facility in North America. PHOTO: Georgia Ports Authority

Mason Mega Rail

At the Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal, a five-year project and more than US$220 million invested created the Mason Mega Rail, an 85-acre facility that is the largest on-terminal intermodal facility in North America.

The project doubled the Port of Savannah’s rail lift capacity to 1 million 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs per year, increased the number of working tracks from eight to 18, and added 97,000 feet of new rail at Garden City Terminal for a total of 24 miles of track. The project also rerouted trains away from neighborhood crossings and brought rail switching onto the port.

GPA said the Mason Mega Rail’s scale and reach is a foundational infrastructure to the port’s national gateway growth plans, using a “1,2,3” cargo strategy — one day off the vessel in Savannah, two days transportation, and third day availability to a wide network of inland destinations from Atlanta and Dallas to Memphis and Chicago, with 75 percent of the U.S. population is reachable within three to four days.

The terminal, in cooperation with Class I railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern provide daily departures to inland destinations.

GPA reported record intermodal rail volumes in February for Savannah with 46,890 containers loaded, a 39% increase, or 13,060 lifts compared to February 2023. Rail accounted for 19% of GPA’s February container trade, with the remainder moving by truck.

“GPA has made significant investments in rail infrastructure,” said Griff Lynch, president, and CEO. “That’s going to play a key role in capturing our next growth target – a greater share of the market in locations such as Dallas, Memphis and beyond.”

Inland Ports

GPA’s inland port system comprises the Appalachian Regional Port in Crandall, Georgia, and the Blue Ridge Connector rail yard under construction near Gainesville, Georgia, and supports the movement of large, heavy product from centrally located communities to Savannah and Brunswick.

The Appalachian Regional Port, or ARP, provides an alternative all-truck route to and from the Port of Savannah. Completed in 2018, at a cost of US$26.7 million, the 42-acre terminal in northwest Georgia is a joint effort of the state of Georgia, Murray County, the GPA and CSX Transportation.

Each round-trip container moved via the ARP reduces energy consumption and offsets 710 truck miles on Georgia highways. The ARP’s target markets include regions of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

The inland rail terminal provides a powerful new gateway to global markets. The ARP set a February record of 3,285 containers, up 23%, due in part to an increase in the import of manufacturing components. The ARP has a capacity of 50,000 containers per year and GPA’s 10-year development plan will including doubling its capacity.

A rendering of Georgia Ports Authority’s planned Blue Ridge Connector. PHOTO: Georgia Ports Authority

Blue Ridge Connector

The port authority sees its Blue Ridge Connector as a key driver to enable businesses to build a competitive supply chain into a growing Northeast Georgia regional market.

GPA approved US$127 million on Dec. 5 to build the Blue Ridge Connector, a 104-acre inland rail terminal in Gainesville, Georgia, linking Northeast Georgia with the Port of Savannah’s 37 weekly vessel calls. Scheduled to open in 2026, the facility will serve the region’s production of heavy equipment, food, and forest products.

Linking via the connector will reduce highway congestion and eliminate the 600-mile roundtrip drive to and from the port. This would offset emissions by as much as 75% while reducing transportation costs for importers and exporters.

“Every effort has been made to improve the supply chain experience, enable future growth while being sensitive to surrounding communities,” said Stacy Watson, GPA’s director of economic and industrial development.

Ocean Terminal Overpass

The port authority on Feb. 2 announced plans to invest US$29 million for an overpass linking Ocean Terminal to Route 17, which is expected to keep terminal truck capacity from impacting local neighborhoods.

Led by GPA, the joint collaboration among the port authority, the city of Savannah and the Georgia Department of Transportation will enable trucks to directly access Route 17 as opposed to using Louisville Road and local streets to enter the highway. The GPA will construct the overpass and roadway entrance to U.S. 17, to be completed by 2026. The GDOT will then be responsible for maintenance and repair.

GPA will also build a dedicated exit ramp from Route 17 and a new truck-only entrance roadway into Ocean Terminal designed for enhanced safety and traffic operations for the traveling public.

More than 13,200 motor carriers are registered as active users of the Port of Savannah. PHOTO: Georgia Ports Authority

Trucker Safety

Beyond rail, motor carriers play a vital role in connecting ocean carriers and U.S. producers and consumers. GPA established a trucker safety committee to address driver concerns and help new and existing drivers understand safe operations on the terminal.

Savannah’s Garden City Terminal averages more than 6,000 daily truck visits, and drivers average less than 35 minutes for a single move to drop or pick up a container. Double moves – dropping off a container and picking up a different one – is less than 54 minutes.

Representatives from GPA operations teams shared information about gate operations, trouble ticket processes, and procedures for the empty container yard. After hearing from Georgia Ports, the group discussed concerns about issues they have been facing.

“GPA values its partners in the motor carrier industry and respects the job that they do every day,” GPA’s Lynch said. “Georgia Ports created this initiative to increase communication between our port operations and safety teams and motor carriers.”

More than 13,200 motor carriers are registered as active users of the Port of Savannah, ranging from a single owner-operator and one driver, and large companies that represent dozens to hundreds of drivers.