Port of Mobile to Build Container Facility in North Alabama

Inland Rail Facility Will Allow Intermodal Transfer of Containers
Port of Mobile container ship
A container is loaded onto the Mediterranean Shipping Co. Pilar cargo ship at the APM Terminals yard in the Port of Mobile in Mobile, Ala. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News)

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Economic growth is expected after the Alabama Port Authority, in partnership with CSX Transportation, announced on Feb. 7 that Decatur, Ala., will be home to a new intermodal container transfer facility to connect north Alabama to the Port of Mobile.

The new facility will be the second Port Authority inland rail facility behind Montgomery’s — which is expected to be operational in 2025 — and will transfer shipping containers between rail and trucks. Both facilities will help goods from Mobile reach the rest of the state.

“Decatur is strategically positioned with river, highway and rail connections, and this facility around the CSX railyard will capitalize on that,” said Jeremy Nails, president of the Morgan County Economic Development Association.

The announcement comes after the Port Authority last week reported a statewide economic impact of $98 billion in 2022. Gov. Kay Ivey said the Port of Mobile supports over 351,000 jobs. It’s the second fastest-growing port in the nation over the last decade, according to Forbes.

“This will be the north Alabama site, similar to what Montgomery has,” said City Council President Jacob Ladner. “It’s just kind of continuing those goods and services to be shipped — this particular one is obviously at a rail spur here in Decatur.”

Ladner said he learned of the facility Feb. 5 in a phone call with Port Authority officials. Since then, he has researched the planned facility in Montgomery and said he liked what he saw.

“It’s obviously a good thing,” he said. “I’ve talked to a few people from Montgomery about their facility. I don’t think it’s actually been opened yet, and they’ve already had over $2 billion in investment from companies wanting to locate close to those areas and benefit.”

Ladner said he doesn’t expect an immediate, “massive” job expansion when the facility comes to Decatur; rather, he expects the growth will come gradually as additional industries move in to take advantage of the facility.

The location of the CSX Railyard where the new facility is to be constructed.

“In the short term it will bring construction jobs, and in the long term, as the business is built out, we expect to see an increase in jobs in the logistics and transportation industry at all levels,” said Nails.

More people could mean more traffic. While the use of rail can help alleviate highway and interstate traffic, according to the Port Authority, Ladner said local traffic might be impacted in a less positive way. He hopes the facility will help secure funding for another bridge across the Tennessee River.

“We’ve got to get that other way across the river, and I think this will point us toward that even more,” he said. “That’s a long project, but this is another reason I think we can give to folks that make those decisions to help us with that process.”

The results of the first phase of a feasibility study for a new bridge are expected to be presented to the City Council this month, according to the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s director of transportation planning, Dewayne Hellums.

The second phase of the study will take into consideration environmental protection restrictions and narrow down a location, according to Hellums. If funding is approved for the second phase, he expects it to take about a year and a half to complete.

In a Port Authority press release, director and CEO John Driscoll said the new Decatur facility will advance logistics infrastructure in the region.

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“This expansion not only signifies our confidence in the local economy but also reflects our ongoing efforts to meet the evolving needs of our customers while contributing to the growth of the communities we serve,” he said.

Mayor Tab Bowling, in the release, called the announcement a “momentous stride” in Decatur’s economic impact trajectory.

“The establishment of the North Alabama ICTF brings immense economic potential to Decatur and the entire north Alabama region, and I am thrilled to witness the realization of the North Alabama ICTF project in Decatur,” he said. “This is a landmark achievement in bolstering our city’s economic vitality.”

The new facility will be built at the CSX railyard, according to Nails.

“For the state, it gives our north Alabama businesses new options to get their goods to market, which helps them compete on price with competitors worldwide,” he said.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC