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Preparing for Growth Through Multiple Modes

Ports are continually increasing and improving their intermodal and multimodal capacities and connections to prepare for the increases in freight traffic predicted.

By Mary Lou Jay 

The U.S. Department of Transportation predicts that the country’s freight traffic will increase by 45 percent by 2045. In anticipation of that growth, U.S. ports are continually increasing and improving their intermodal and multimodal capacities.

With its Mid-American Arc plan, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) is using intermodal improvements to expand the Port of Savannah’s reach to inland markets like Atlanta, Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio.

GPA has already made several upgrades to its rail services to allow the faster, less expensive movement of goods by rail to inland terminals. It upgraded its rail system to provide next day service to Atlanta, and it built a short line from the Port of Savannah to Cordele Inland Port. The Appalachian Regional Port in Chatsworth will soon provide a direct, 388-mile rail route to Savannah’s Garden City Terminal.

“We are taking hundreds of trucks a day off the road,” said Edward McCarthy, GPA COO.

Now the port has embarked on a $128 million Mega-Rail project. “We have both CSX and Norfolk Southern on-dock facilities, but they are not connected; they are separated by a canal. The plan is to link them together and then increase the current capacity of the facilities,” said McCarthy. The number of combined tracks will grow from 13 to 18, with the length either 2,700 or 3,000 feet.

“We will be able to build 10,000-foot trains right here on our facility that can go directly into Memphis and Chicago and Atlanta,” McCarthy added.

A FASTLANE grant (Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long Term Achievement of National Efficiencies) is providing $44 million of the funding; the remaining cost will be borne by the port.

When the project is completed in 2021, GPA will have the largest rail facility in North America. “It will take us to the next level. We did about 380,000 rail lifts last year, and this new facility will give us one million rail lift capability,” McCarthy said.

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