The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) opened on Friday an expanded intermodal container transfer facility at the Port of Savannah that port authority officials said would dramatically cut the transit times of railroads that serve the large containerport.
In a statement, GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz said the $6.5 million, 6,000-foot rail yard extension at the Mason Intermodal Container Facility will improve efficiencies and reduce costs for the rail intermodal supply chain. The expansion now brings the amount of track at the two rail yards to nearly 47,000 linear feet. The rail yards are served by Norfolk Southern Corp. and CSX Corp., the two large Eastern rails that operate at the port.
"Our two on-terminal facilities mean shippers don't have to haul their goods to remote rail yards and can get cargo moving to distribution centers or other destinations more quickly," Foltz said.
For example, trains run by Norfolk Southern previously entered the intermodal facility from the east and exited from the west. This path required trains to make a circuitous loop through the terminal where the facility was located, thus delaying the car-switching process and a train's eventual departure. The expanded lines, combined with a "wye" or a triangle of railroad track used to turn or switch cars, will allow arriving Norfolk Southern trains to enter from the west, be switched on site, and then depart from the west towards Atlanta.
The new operation will circumvent 21 at-grade rail crossings and shave six hours from the round-trip turn times to Atlanta, port and rail officials said.
"The upgrades made to this site will enhance Norfolk Southern's ability to serve [port] customers safely and expeditiously, while providing for growth in coming years," said Jeffrey Heller, Norfolk Southern's group vice president of international intermodal services.
Port officials said the improvements should increase the amount of Savannah's container volumes that move by rail.
Savannah is the nation's fourth largest containerport behind Los Angeles, Long Beach, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It is also the second largest U.S. container port for U.S. ocean export tonnage. It handled 8.7 percent of the U.S. containerized cargo volume and 12.5 percent of all U.S. containerized exports in its 2011 fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2011.