Port of Savannah gets $44m to boost rail traffic

The Georgia Ports Authority received Wednesday $44 million from Washington to boost rail capacity at the port of Savannah with hopes of garnering more business from the Midwest.

The port’s Garden City Terminal will use the grant, provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation, to build a rail bridge and add track and switching capacity. Longer trains, needed for longer hauls to Memphis, Chicago and the Gulf of Mexico, will be able to access the terminal.

“This transformative project will not only increase rail capacity and velocity at the Garden City Container Terminal, but will also provide substantial benefits to surrounding communities by improving public safety, reducing environmental impacts and avoiding commuter traffic,” Griff Lynch, executive director of the ports authority, said in a statement.

The money covers about a third of the $128 million needed over five years to fully build the “multi-modal connector” project.

Savannah is one of the few ports with two Class I railroads: Norfolk Southern and CSX. About 18 percent of the containers handled at the terminal moves by rail. Savannah loaded and unloaded 3.73 million containers last year. It is the nation’s fourth busiest container port.

“Georgia needs a long-term plan from the federal government to support urgently needed transportation infrastructure improvements,” said U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who welcomed the federal assistance.

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