Monday, March 06, 2017

Georgia Ports Authority plans to reduce Garden City rail crossings

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Georgia Ports Authority plans to reduce Garden City rail crossings Georgia Ports Authority/Stephen B. Morton

Representatives from Garden City, Chatham County and the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) discussed a proposal that would reduce the use of grade crossings around GPA's Garden City Terminal during a public meeting Feb. 28.

Current plans call for the installation of an overpass at State Route 25. The road improvement will take vehicular traffic over planned new rail lines and Pipemakers Canal. It is proposed in conjunction with an on-terminal project that will double GPA's rail capacity to 1 million containers per year. The new port infrastructure will remove the need to stop trains off terminal to switch rail cars, an activity which has impacted traffic on commuter routes.

"While this project is important to the port's business, it will greatly improve the safety and flow of traffic on major thoroughfares like Highway 21 and Main Street in Garden City," said Mayor Don Bethune. "Moving rail switching onto Garden City Terminal will drastically reduce rail-related traffic delays for commuters and local residents."

The changes are part of a rail expansion that will enable the GPA to better accommodate 10,000-foot long unit trains and double rail capacity without increasing truck traffic.

"Not only will this new infrastructure reduce the impact of rail cargo movements in our community, it will also help us to alleviate future truck traffic as more of our containers move by rail," said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch. "Our area will also see economic benefits, as additional intermodal capacity will create new employment opportunities on terminal and throughout the local logistics and supply chain."

The project, dubbed the Savannah International Multi-Modal Connector, will build density into the system, and enable rail providers CSX and Norfolk Southern to deliver faster, more frequent rail service to markets ranging from Memphis to Chicago and the Ohio Valley.

Currently, 19 percent of containerized cargo moves by rail at the Port of Savannah. The expansion is geared in part toward increasing the share of cargo that moves by rail at Garden City Terminal.

The development will be partially funded by a $44 million federal Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) grant, with the remaining $84 million covered by the GPA, Genesee & Wyoming Railroad and Chatham County. The projected completion date is in 2021.

"Expanding rail capacity and service for our customers enhances our ability to support global competitiveness for American businesses, while also improving quality of life for our neighbors in Garden City," said GPA Board Chairman Jimmy Allgood. "The project is truly a win-win situation for commerce and the community."

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