Georgia Ports Authority Board approves US$127M expenditure to build Blue Ridge Connector, an inland rail terminal in Gainesville, connecting Northeast Georgia with the Port of Savannah; facility set to open in 2026

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SAVANNAH, Georgia , December 5, 2023 (press release) –

All berths open for business at Savannah’s Garden City Terminal

 

The Georgia Ports Authority Board has approved expenditure of $127 million to build the Blue Ridge Connector, an inland rail terminal in Gainesville, Ga., linking Northeast Georgia with the Port of Savannah’s 35 global container ship services. The future facility will open in 2026 and serve a region important for the production of heavy equipment, food and forest products. 

 

“Through improved connectivity, developments like the Blue Ridge Connector maximize the impact of Georgia’s extensive logistics network,” said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. “Inland terminals have a proven track record of powering economic development for rural Georgians by extending port services to the doorstep of manufacturing and supply chain operations.” 

 

Funding for the Blue Ridge Connector is a mix of GPA internal capital and a grant from the Federal Maritime Administration of up to $46.8 million. Norfolk Southern Railroad will connect the facility to GPA’s Mason Mega Rail terminal in Savannah.  Counting this latest project, GPA has now invested more than $374 million in rail capacity, including the Port of Savannah’s on-dock Mason Mega Rail Terminal and the Appalachian Regional Port in Northwest Georgia. Approximately 18-20 percent of GPA’s container cargo moves by rail. The rest is handled by truck.

 

“This important investment will help our customers streamline their supply chains while reducing congestion on Georgia highways,” said GPA President and CEO Griff Lynch. “As we have seen at the Appalachian Regional Port in Murray County, improved rail service to the region will increase transportation efficiency and act as a magnet for jobs and economic development. Every container moved by rail will avoid a 600-mile roundtrip by truck between Savannah and the Gainesville, area,” Lynch added. “That’s a massive benefit to cargo owners seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.” Hybrid electric rubber tire gantry cranes will be used.

 

In a separate item, the board approved $44.5 million to build a 300,000 square-foot facility on Garden City Terminal with offices and refrigeration facilities to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Savannah provides the only on-port CBP inspection facility in the U.S., lowering costs and time for port customers by eliminating the need to transport cargo to an off-site inspection facility. “Our long-term partnership with CBP is important to the safe and secure operational flow of cargo through our gateway container terminal. This investment represents the next level of making future supply chains runs smoother in Savannah,” said GPA Chairman Kent Fountain. 

 

Last month, GPA reopened Berth 1 at Garden City Terminal to vessel traffic. The two-year renovation project now allows the dock to serve vessels in the 16,000+ TEU range. With all berths now online, vessel service has returned to previous velocities, with ship queues cleared.

 

At the Port of Brunswick, GPA is conducting a $262 million expansion program. Construction is complete on 350,000 square feet of near-dock warehousing that serves auto and machinery processing on the north side of Colonel’s Island Terminal. Three additional buildings representing 290,000 square feet and 122 acres of Roll-on/Roll-off cargo storage space are under construction on the south side of the island.

 

GPA maintains a two-pillar strategy of development and operations, with the Port of Savannah focused on container trade and Brunswick specializing in Ro/Ro cargo.

 

While volume numbers have yet to be finalized for November, the Georgia Ports Authority anticipates trade of approximately 430,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units, for an 18.5 percent increase over the same month in 2019, the most recent year not affected by the pandemic.

 

About Georgia Ports: Georgia’s ports and inland terminals support more than 561,000 jobs throughout the state annually, and contribute $33 billion in income, $140 billion in revenue and $3.8 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy. GPA anticipates investing $4.5 billion in the next ten years as part of its port master plan to expand cargo handling capabilities to support future supply chain requirements. As part of GPA’s community engagement efforts, $6 million will be donated to communities located near the Port of Savannah to support a multi-year, local workforce housing initiative. CNBC ranked Georgia #1 in the U.S. for infrastructure in America’s Top States for Business in 2023.   Area Development  – a site selection news outlet for the U.S., has ranked Georgia as the Top State to Do Business for ten consecutive years. For further information, visit gaports.com or contact Chief Communications Officer Tom Boyd at tboyd@gaports.com or call (912) 964-3855.

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