Georgia Looking for more Inland Ports

| July 10, 2015

Savannah Ports

SAVANNAH — The success of the state’s first inland port at Cordele, coupled with the growth of container traffic, has prompted Georgia Ports Authority to look for new ways to link the country’s fastest growing port with inland terminals around the state and beyond.

“The idea, which we’re calling Network Georgia, is to look at the state as six geographical zones and work with those zones to create a web of rail connections that will make access to the port easy and convenient,” said Curtis Foltz, GPA executive director.

“We want to work with the zones and the state to improve that connectivity, which will also improve economic development across the region.”

Two years ago, Gov. Nathan Deal and the GPA signed a memorandum of understanding with Cordele Intermodal Services that ensured a direct, 200-mile rail route between Cordele – located on Interstate 75 in the central part of the state – and the GPA’s Garden City Terminal.

The partnership was expected to create and expand international markets for regional business, reduce highway traffic, cut shipping costs and provide new service offerings to benefit shippers, truckers and ocean carriers.

Two years later, Cordele’s success has surprised even Foltz.

“Cordele has exceeded my expectations on the front end,” he said. “What it has done certainly speaks to the importance of inland rail.”

Ideally, Foltz said, in the next 10 years he would like to see a web of intermodal rail centers across the state.

“We’d like to see that rail and highway connectivity improve to the point that it won’t matter where you are, you will have a strong and efficient transportation network for your product.”

Exporters in Southwest Georgia and the neighboring regions of Florida and Alabama already are taking advantage of overnight rail service to both the ports of Savannah and Brunswick, as Cordele has improved its dedicated rail service to the ports by offering next-day service.

With the growth in container business at GPA’s Garden City Terminal, the two on-terminal rail yards — The Chatham Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, served by CSX Transportation, and the Mason ICTF, served by Norfolk Southern Railroad — will become even more critical, Foltz said.

“Our strategy is to position GPA as a rail gateway for the eastern half of the U.S. in advance of the Panama Canal expansion,” he said.

“With Cordele firmly established, look for an announcement of the next inland port in 45 to 60 days.”

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