Georgia Ports Authority's (GPA) Mason Mega Rail project, in the works for more than four years and designed to expand service to the Southeast and Midwestern U.S., has passed a major milestone. GPA has put into operation the first nine of 18 new working tracks, with its first two rail-mounted gantry cranes to be commissioned in June.
"At the Port of Savannah, we are working to improve the efficiency of the American supply chain and move goods to market even faster," said GPA executive director Griff Lynch. "These efforts are strengthening our logistics network at a time when the nation needs it most."
The expansion will use an estimated $38 million of American-made steel, GPA board chairman Will McKnight noted. The project has so far installed 56,000 feet of new track but will include a total of 129,000 feet when complete - or nearly 24.5 miles.
The Mason Mega Rail Terminal will double the Port of Savannah's rail capacity to 2 million twenty-foot equivalent container units per year, allowing GPA to take on new business in a broader service area, reaching well into the U.S. Midwest.
"The Mason Mega Rail Terminal is an incredible example of the federal government and the port authority working together to keep America's commerce moving ahead," said McKnight. "Even during this crisis, the disciplined effort involved has been a testament to the vital importance we all place on this nationally significant project."
Lynch thanked Savannah's two Class I railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern, for providing a competitive option for moving cargo to a Mid-American Arc of cities ranging from Memphis to Chicago. Garden City Terminal averages only 24 hours between vessel discharge and intermodal train departure. Rail transit from Savannah to Memphis provides cargo availability in just 56 hours
Further, Lynch said the project would not have been possible without a generous grant from the U.S. Maritime Administration.
"On behalf of the Authority, I would like to thank Admiral Mark Buzby at MARAD for his support of our vision for the Mega Rail terminal," Lynch said. "We are also grateful for the leadership of Gov. Brian Kemp, and to the Georgia Congressional delegation, particularly Sen. David Perdue, former Sen. Johnny Isakson and Congressman Buddy Carter for their unwavering support throughout the grant application process and implementation of this critical project."
GPA employees and contract workers continued to press forward during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a daily average of more than 150 people working on the rail expansion, and more than 2.2 million staff hours expended in planning and construction since late 2015.
"Additionally, throughout all this work and the issues related to the coronavirus, GPA and our partners at the International Longshoremen's Association have continued to provide world-class service to our customers," Lynch said.
Georgia's deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 439,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute $25 billion in income, $106 billion in revenue and $2.9 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia's economy. The Port of Savannah handled 8.5% of U.S. containerized cargo volume and 10% of all U.S. containerized exports in FY2017.