Seeking a way to reduce Atlanta truck traffic by shifting more cargo to rail, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) said Monday that it plans to work with railway operator Norfolk Southern to open an inland port in the state's northeast Hall County in 2021.
Located in the Gateway Industrial Centre on GA 365, the 104-acre terminal will provide logistics solutions for customers across Northeast Georgia. At full build-out, the Hall County inland terminal will have the capacity to handle up to 150,000 containers per year, and will draw labor from the local population of 1.5 million residents of Hall, Gwinnett, and other surrounding counties, officials said.
"The Northeast Georgia Inland Port will be situated in the heart of the manufacturing and logistics corridor along Interstate 85, an important region for the production of heavy equipment, food, and forest products," Georiga Gov. Nathan Deal said in a release.
Port officials say improved access to rail will increase logistics options and overall efficiency, while reducing congestion on Georgia highways. Presently, containers moving by truck travel a 600-mile roundtrip to and from the Port of Savannah. When the new rail yard opens, drivers will be able to make shorter trips from area manufacturers and distribution facilities to the Northeast Georgia site, according to the GPA.
"Our new Gainesville location is part of our Network Georgia initiative, which provides new and existing port customers with additional logistics options," GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch said in public remarks. "The new rail hub will allow importers and exporters to move loaded containers to the coast with greater efficiency, and provide a ready source of empty containers for Georgia exports."
Lynch had suggested back in August that GPA planned to add inland ports across the state in an effort to connect manufacturers in a four-state cluster—Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky—with the seaport through the use of a dedicated train.
Handling both import and export containers at the Gainesville terminal, Norfolk Southern will provide service on a direct rail route to and from the Port of Savannah's Garden City Terminal, officials said.
"Savannah is a rapidly growing gateway for global commerce, and Hall County and the surrounding region in Northeast Georgia are key areas of expansion in the state," Norfolk Southern's Jeff Heller, Vice President Intermodal & Automotive, said in a release. "Manufacturers and distributors around the globe continue to set their sights on this region for development. Georgia Ports Authority's inland port at Gainesville, combined with Norfolk Southern's rail service, will provide crucial links in the supply chains of local industries, consumers, and the rest of the world."