(The Center Square) – Alabama is making an investment in rail service in the central and southern parts of the state to create key port access designed to combat the current supply chain crisis and benefit the southeastern part of the country.
Gov. Kay Ivey announced in a news release the creation of A-USA Corridor, which is a $231.6 million investment in projects that will upgrade economic development infrastructure in the state. The first phase of the project will benefit ports in Mobile, Etowah, Jefferson, Shelby, and Washington and Mobile counties.
“Working together with the Port in Mobile to build out our infrastructure to move the commerce for Alabama and the greater southeastern region of the country must be one of our top priorities,” Ivey said in the release. “Creating good port access to central Alabama is a key part of this initiative, and it can provide options for freight containers to reach new destinations inland, which our country has struggled with during the supply chain crisis. I am proud our state is looking ahead and investing in the Alabama-USA Corridor and the future jobs and economic opportunity it will bring.”
According to the release, the first phase features a $71.6 million project to connect the Port of Mobile with the McCalla Intermodal Facility near Birmingham. The 280-mile long rail line will also connect to economic development sites in Etowah at Little Canoe Creek, Shelby at Calera, and Washington/Mobile. Those sites feature more than 1,000 acres. A 104-acre site in Jefferson County featuring a million square-feet of warehouse space will be developed.
Work has been expedited at the sites due to the Growing Alabama Tax Credit, which is helping create the manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution sites in the network, according to the release.
Norfolk Southern has partnered with the state, and local economic development groups, and has made a $5.7 million investment to the Etowah County Commission to improve the Little Canoe Creek site, according to the release.
The sites are situated near major interstate highways. However, the rail service will create a modern and efficient freight and intermodal rail infrastructure designed to meet the port’s growth and the region’s economic expansion.
According to the release, the first phase will feature 12 specific track, signal, and yard improvements for Norfolk Southern lines between Mobile, Selma, and Birmingham.
“The Alabama Port Authority welcomes this vital project as we address rapid growth in the port’s container intermodal and freight business lines,” John C. Driscoll, director and chief executive officer, said in the release. “The Norfolk Southern rail improvements will bolster capacity, reliability, and market access through the Port of Mobile for regional supply chains.”
The University of Alabama conducted an economic impact survey, conducted by the Culverhouse College of Business from 2000 to 2020, and showed the corridor will provide new, expanded opportunities for economic development investments reaching $14.3 billion and nearly 21,000 jobs.
According to the release, the construction phases will provide $497.2 million in gross business receipts. Alabama workers are expected to reach $184.8 million in earnings with 4,247 direct and indirect workers in the state. The state will collect $13.1 million in state and local taxes during construction.
Norfolk Southern, according to the release, is providing more than half of the funding for the project, while the state is investing $5 million into the project. Present and future federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Program grants are expected to cover the remainder of the costs.
— By Brent Addleman, The Center Square