Building upon its inland port successes, the Georgia Ports Authority is extending its Network Georgia concept to include a rail-served facility now being built in the northwest corner of the state, with an eye toward one or two more such intermodal installations.
“We’re looking to not only grow within our borders but also beyond,” said Edward McCarthy, GPA’s chief operating officer.
Opened in mid-2013 just off Interstate 75 in the south-central part of the Peach State, the 40-acre Cordele Inland Port is providing a 170-mile short-line rail alternative to a truck drive that can take as long as four hours. The facility got a boost with last summer’s announcement of a Kia commitment to annually bring as many as 30,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units of containerized cargo via Cordele to supply its automaking plant in West Point, Georgia.
In December, ground was broken for the $19.7 million Appalachian Regional Port in Northwest Georgia, just 20 miles south of the Tennessee line, with plans to become operational by fall 2018, served by CSX Transportation intermodal trains. Truck trips between that site and Savannah docks can take as long as eight hours, according to GPA’s executive director, Griffith V. “Griff” Lynch.
The facilities are seen as saving shippers money, advancing sustainability as opposed to truck moves, as a hedge against the increasingly regulated trucking industry and as a stimulator of economic development, including e-commerce fulfillment centers.
GPA has been engaged for several years with inland terminals in Columbus, across the Chattahoochee River from Alabama, with a small liquid bulk terminal operated under lease, and in Bainbridge, in Georgia’s southwest corner, just north of the Florida border, where GPA operates a terminal focused on domestic oats and other agribulk cargo.
Lynch said Bainbridge is being explored for development of an additional rail-served inland intermodal hub, while GPA also is looking at the potential of yet another inland port in Northeast Georgia. That would bring the state’s total of rail-served inland intermodal container facilities to four.
“They are really a gateway to Savannah,” Lynch said of the inland ports, both current and future.
That said, even with the new inland ports in place, Atlanta – with longstanding large intermodal terminals of both CSX and Norfolk Southern and trains running daily along the 250 miles to and from Savannah – is likely to continue to represent the top rail pairing with the Port of Savannah.