Later this year, OmniTRAX is scheduled to inaugurate an innovative facility it is constructing some 12 miles from the Port of Savannah. It’s the focal point of a mammoth industrial park development’s first phase, tethered to a proximity to the port and two Class One railroads that traverse the property.
The building, along with a new rail yard and switching yard, will cost $75 million. It will enable plastic pellets coming by rail hopper cars initially from the petrochemical plants on the Gulf Coast to be offloaded, processed, bagged and containerized, then hauled by truck to the port, where the containers will be exported by ship.
The project encapsulates multi-module cargo transport — rail, truck and preparation for ship — that can come together pretty much under one roof. “It adds those three layers and it’s a little more complex,” said Kevin Shuba, OmniTRAX’s CEO, in an interview with American Journal of Transportation, “It is a very efficient way to get this product exported.”
“It’s trans-loading on steroids,” said Shuba, describing the facility. “One million square feet is a heck of a big building.”
OmniTRAX will lease the building to A&R Logistics, which specializes in chemicals-related supply chain services. The plant is due to be operational by the first quarter of 2021.
Both CSX and Norfolk Southern pass through the 2,700-acre industrial park, owned by the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority. OmniTRAX, a Denver-based company with one foot in railroads and the other in rail-related real estate and industrial development, is the master developer.
The development can work to trans-load in both directions. “We do have interest from other people who are looking at distribution-type facilities, where product comes through the port and then could move up to this area and then go out by rail,” Shuba said.
“There are various commodities that also could move both ways, coming in from the port up to our facility or coming into our facility and then going down to the port for export,” Shuba added. He cited lumber, wood chips and poultry as potential examples.
The industrial park can also serve to both decongest the port area and bring together operations now spread out. “We are talking to several people now who have several facilities in the Savannah area that are looking to consolidate them into our location,” said Shuba.
OmniTRAX is constructing spurs to connect CSX, on the east, and Norfolk Southern on the west. Both will connect with the new rail yard that will lie between them. This arrangement offers the potential as well to serve as an inland port. True, “it’s only 12 miles outside of [the port], but it is, in many ways, an inland port and similar to what Georgia Ports Authority wants to do in other locations,” said Shuba.
This isn’t OmniTRAX’s first such effort in this direction. It has developed a similarly ambitious project about 50 miles north of Denver. The Great Western Industrial Park also offers connections to two Class One railroads, in this case the Union Pacific and BNSF. It’s a 3,000-acre development that OmniTRAX began to manage in 2006.