The Georgia Ports Authority this week broke ground on its $126.7 million Mason Mega Rail Terminal.
The expansion, officials said, will increase the Port of Savannah’s rail lift capacity to 1 million containers per year. GPA estimates that the new intermodal terminal will take more than 200,000 trucks off the road annually.
When complete, Garden City Terminal will have a total of 180,000 feet of rail, 18 working tracks and the capability of building 10,000-foot unit trains on the terminal. This will allow GPA to bring all rail switching onto the terminal, avoiding the use of nearly two dozen rail crossings for improved vehicle traffic flow, officials said.
“Today is a great day for Georgia and the nation,” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said in a news release. “Not only will this new intermodal facility take trucks off the road and bring our products to market with greater efficiency, but it will open a new corridor for American commerce to and from the Midwest.”
Unit trains make direct routes to distant markets more profitable for the railroads, which is a major factor in how the new capabilities of the Mason Mega Rail terminal will improve Savannah’s reach.
In the first half of 2018, work will focus on constructing a pair of rail bridges that will carry a total of seven tracks connecting two existing intermodal container transfer facilities. GPA officials estimate the new terminal will begin coming online by the fall of 2019, with project completion in the fall of 2020. The Mega Rail expansion is funded in part by a $44 million U.S. Department of Transportation FASTLANE grant administered by the Maritime Administration.
To serve the expanded rail yard, the GPA is also ordering eight rail-mounted gantry cranes. The RMGs will each span nine tracks for improved efficiency moving containers from trains to on-terminal jockey trucks. Lynch said the growing rail infrastructure complements Savannah’s role as a gateway port for container trade.
Garden City Terminal is already the South Atlantic region’s busiest intermodal gateway, handling 38 trains per week of import and export cargo. Once the Mason Mega Rail terminal is complete, the Port of Savannah will have a state-of-the-art facility, unique to the U.S. East Coast.
The new rail infrastructure is part of a comprehensive expansion plan that includes the harbor deepening, the single largest ship-to-shore crane fleet in North America, 60 additional yard cranes and expanding truck gates.
The Port of Savannah is the fourth busiest port in the nation, behind Los Angeles; Long Beach, Calif.; and New York-New Jersey.