Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) has received federal environmental approval to develop an inland terminal near Gainesville.
The approval comes in support of GPA’s Network Georgia plan to develop rail hubs around the state.
Following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) approval for the Northeast Georgia Inland Port in the Gainesville-Hall County area, the Authority will now finalise a grant agreement with the US Department of Transportation Maritime Administration (MARAD), and then move on to construction.
MARAD has awarded GPA a grant of up to $46.8 million to build the new inland container port along the I-85/I-985 corridor.
Earthwork is slated to begin in July, with terminal construction scheduled to begin January 2024 and end by July 2026.
“Our expanding network is increasing rail capacity and connectivity between the port and major manufacturing sites around the state,” said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch.
“Moving more cargo by rail eases interstate traffic and reduces the carbon footprint of the state’s logistics industry by making the most efficient use of the Georgia’s logistics infrastructure.”
Georgia Ports anticipates the inland rail hub will open with volumes of 60,000 TEU per year.
With the roundtrip truck route totalling 602 miles, this opening volume would alleviate approximately 36 million truck miles on Georgia highways in the terminal’s first year of operation.
GPA estimates 46 of truck traffic between Northeast Georgia and Savannah will use rail instead.
Cargo moving to the region by rail will reduce truck use from seven hours to less than 30 minutes. The shift will avoid 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2e) by 2054, according to Executive Director Lynch.
“The Northeast Georgia Inland Port will create 20 new direct jobs,” said Stacy Watson, GPA director of economic and industrial development.
“However, the rail hub will deliver other opportunities for employment and economic growth as industry is drawn to its logistical benefits. That’s a dynamic we’ve already seen with our Appalachian Regional Port.”
The GPA recorded its third busiest April ever last month, with 408,686 TEU, short of the 495,782 TEU recorded in April 2022 and the 466,633 in April 2021.
The port’s volume last month constituted a 12 per cent increase over its pre-pandemic performance in April 2019, when Garden City Terminal handled 364,481 TEU.