Feds to give $46.9 million for inland port in Gainesville

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal applauds during an announcement Dec. 3, 2018 that the state will soon open its third inland port, a $90 million facility on 104 acres, in Deal’s hometown of Gainesville. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)(ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal applauds during an announcement Dec. 3, 2018 that the state will soon open its third inland port, a $90 million facility on 104 acres, in Deal’s hometown of Gainesville. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)(ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

The U.S. Department of Transportation plans to give the Georgia Ports Authority $46.9 million to build an inland container port at a 104-acre site near I-985 in Gainesville.

The federal cash infusion could give momentum to a state project first announced in late 2018 aimed at improving access to Savannah’s booming harbor hundreds of miles away and reducing congestion through metro Atlanta.

The project, to be located at the Gateway Industrial Center in Hall County, would handle up to 200,000 containers a year, creating jobs and spurring the regional economy, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a written statement.

The investments will “spur innovation, confront climate change and address inequities across the country,” the first time those goals have been part of the consideration for choosing what to fund, he said.

The DOT had reviewed 157 applications. The Gainesville project was one of two dozen chosen, according to the department.

Work on the project will not start until 2022 and will take about two years, according to the Georgia Ports Authority, which has already spent $5.6 million to buy the land.

The project is expected to cost $164.6 million, including the federal grant. Most of the rest of the tab will be footed by the authority.

The DOT award is subject to Congressional review for the next 60 days, after which the DOT can give Georgia the money, officials said.

The award is subject to Congressional review for the next 60 days, after which the DOT can give Georgia the money, officials said.

The Gainesville project would be linked with the Port of Savannah by a 324-mile rail line, cutting down on the number of trucks on the roads.

The planned inland port “reduces highway traffic, cuts carbon emissions and lowers costs for cargo owners,” said Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.

Georgia already has a large inland port, the Appalachian Regional Port in Crandall, about 95 miles north of Atlanta.

When state officials announced the Gainesville plans in December 2018, they estimated the project would cost $90 million. They also said at the time it would be completed by 2021.

Traffic at Savannah’s port has soared since last fall, fueled partly by a surge in consumers’ online purchases.

ExploreGeorgia to open $90 million rail hub tying Gainesville to Savannah port