A public-private sector agreement was announced today to build an inland port complex in the northwest Georgia town of Chatsworth to link the Port of Savannah by rail to markets in north Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and parts of Kentucky.
The facility, which will be called the Appalachian Regional Port, will operate in conjunction with CSX Transportation, the Jacksonville-based rail giant, which will provide direct access. It is expected to open in 2018 with an annual capacity of 50,000 containers. Container capacity at Chatsworth is expected to double by 2028, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), which runs the Port of Savannah, the nation's fourth-busiest container port, said in a statement.
The new port will be Georgia's second such facility. In 2013, the state opened an inland port in Cordele, located 65 miles south of Macon and 103 miles north of the Florida state line. GPA Chairman James Walters said today that state officials plan to expand GPA's inland port infrastructure, with the goal of developing the largest intermodal complex in the eastern third of the U.S.
The Chatsworth facility will link Savannah with four states running along the busy Interstate 75 north-south corridor, which runs from Tampa to Detroit. It will sit on 42 acres in Murray County. GPA expects 55 percent of the port's business will be domestic and 45 percent international. Because the complex will be located in an industrial region, it will mostly handle carpet, flooring, automobiles, and tires, said Curtis Foltz, GPA's executive director. The northwest Georgia town of Dalton has been called the nation's "carpet capital," and also has a large base of flooring manufacturers.
By contrast, Cordele, which is located near the state's agricultural belt, mostly handles cotton, clay, lumber, and agribusiness exports for customers in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.
Inland ports have grown in popularity in recent years as a cost-effective, environmentally friendly rail-intermodal alternative to trucks in connecting with key seaports. The CSX rail route, for example, will reduce the need for northwest Georgia shippers to route exports bound for Savannah, located in the state's southeast corner, through metro Atlanta by truck. The rail service will cut Atlanta truck traffic by 40,000 moves annually, according to GPA. A spokesman for the port said that no additional sites are currently being planned.