The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), Savannah, Ga., broke ground on its $126.7 million Mason Mega Rail Terminal. The expansion will increase the Port of Savannah's rail lift capacity to 1 million containers per year, and open new markets spanning an arc of cities from Memphis to St. Louis, Chicago to Cincinnati.

The Mega Rail groundbreaking is the latest in a series of Gov. Nathan Deal's signature projects designed to make Georgia the transportation and logistics hub of North America, which include the announcement of 50% completion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, a new inland terminal in Northwest Georgia and a $10 billion statewide transportation improvement plan.

"The Mason Mega Rail project will expand rail capacity by 100% while reducing impact on the local community and throughout the supply chain," says Griff Lynch, executive director of GPA. 

When complete, Garden City Terminal will have a total of 180,000 feet of rail, 18 working tracks and the capability of building 10,000-foot unit trains on terminal. This will allow GPA to bring all rail switching onto the terminal, avoiding the use of nearly two dozen rail crossings, including those on Georgia Highways 21 and 25, for improved vehicle traffic flow.

GPA estimates that the new intermodal terminal will take more than 200,000 trucks off the road annually.

"This project is a game changer," says GPA board chairman Jimmy Allgood. "Our team estimates the Mason Mega Rail Terminal will slash rail time to the Midwest by a good 24 hours, and present a viable new option for many manufacturers, shippers and logistics professionals."

The unit trains make direct routes to distant markets more profitable for the railroads, which is a major factor in how the new capabilities of the Mason Mega Rail terminal will improve Savannah's reach.

In the first half of 2018, work will focus on constructing a pair of rail bridges that will carry a total of seven tracks connecting two existing intermodal container transfer facilities. GPA officials estimate the new terminal will begin coming online by the fall of 2019, with project completion in the fall of 2020.  

To serve the expanded rail yard, the GPA is also ordering eight rail-mounted gantry (RMG) cranes. The RMGs will each span nine tracks for improved efficiency, moving containers from trains to on-terminal jockey trucks.  

"The Port of Savannah has the cargo capacity to quickly load unit trains for expedited service to inland population centers," Lynch says. "Over the past year alone, our average container moves per vessel has increased by 15% and exchanges of 5,000, 20-foot equivalent container units are now common."

The new rail infrastructure is part of a comprehensive expansion plan that includes the harbor deepening, the single largest ship-to-shore crane fleet in North America, 60 additional yard cranes and expanding truck gates.

"Not only are we bolstering intermodal rail capacity, we are adding bandwidth across all points of interaction, from surface transportation to yard and dock transactions," says Ed McCarth, GPA chief operating officer.