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September 13, 2019 11:45 AM, EDT

Port of Savannah to Expand Rail Service to Chicago

Aerial view of Port SavannahPort of Savannah by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller/U.S. Army

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Savannah, Ga., will soon have a larger presence in the Windy City as the Georgia Ports Authority introduces dual rail service from the Port of Savannah to Chicago, with cargo reaching the Midwestern city in less than three days.

GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch announced the new service by Norfolk Southern and CSX during the annual State of the Ports address Sept. 12 at the Savannah Convention Center.

“Today to get to Chicago, the train goes up through Atlanta and then it goes from there to Chicago, so there’s extra time in that process,” Lynch said. “But what we ultimately want to do is build 10,000-foot trains right on our facility and soon with these larger ships we’ll have the critical mass to do that. We’ll have enough volume, and then we can send a ship directly from Savannah to Chicago. That makes us even more competitive.”

Aiding in the new rail service will be the completion of the Mason Mega Rail. Phase One of the project, which broke ground in 2018, will be complete in March.

The second phase is expected to be complete in late 2020 and will double the port’s rail lift capacity to 1 million containers a year from 500,000 a year.

“What has set Savannah above the competition is our ability to scale up in advance of market needs, so that we are ready when our customers are ready to grow,” GPA board Chairman Will McKnight said.

“Our terminal infrastructure plan adheres to our investment philosophy of always keeping infrastructure ahead of current demand,” he said. “This will ensure the GPA is prepared to handle the next wave of cargo expansion.”

For Savannah motorists, it will mean fewer rail crossings on area roads and as many as 200,000 fewer trucks statewide to share the roads. The Chatham and Mason rail yards, operated by CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads, will be combined. The new terminal will allow 10,000-foot trains to be loaded with containers double-stacked.

The Mason Mega Rail Terminal will be the largest on-dock rail facility at any port in North America.

“It will allow the authority to shift more of its cargo mix from truck to rail,” McKnight said, “so that we can grow our overall volumes without congestion at our truck gates.”

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC