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Georgia Ports Authority opens expanded rail yard

Two Norfolk Southern 4,400-horsepower locomotives break a ribbon during a ceremony celebrating the grand opening of the Georgia Ports Authority James D. Mason intermodal container transfer facility in Savannah, Ga earlier today.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) has officially opened its expanded Mason Intermodal Container Transfer Facility in a ribbon-cutting ceremony today. The $6.5 million, 6,000-ft. rail yard extension is designed to expand capacity, reduce costs for customers, and improve efficiencies, including cutting round-trip Norfolk Southern train movements to Atlanta by an estimated six hours.

“These improvements allow Norfolk Southern to offer an efficient, competitive route to the large inland port just up the road – Atlanta,” said Jeffrey Heller, NS group vice-president of international intermodal services.

“The rail yard’s increased efficiency will save time on each container transfer handled at Mason ICTF, saving port customers money,” said GPA executive director Curtis Foltz.

With the expansion, the Garden City Terminal’s two rail yards, serving Class I rail providers Norfolk Southern and CSX, now feature a total of 46,921 linear feet of track.

“Our two on-terminal facilities mean shippers don’t have to haul their goods to remote rail yards, and can get cargo moving to distribution centres or other destinations more quickly,” Foltz said. “This expansion is part of our ongoing effort to hone the world-class service at the Port of Savannah.”

Previously, trains entered the Mason ICTF from the east and exited toward the west. This required the trains to make a wide loop through Garden City, according to rail officials. The expanded lines, working in conjunction with a wye installed by Norfolk Southern, will allow arriving trains to enter from the west. The cars will be switched on terminal, with trains later exiting toward the west. The new operation will avoid the use of 21 at-grade rail crossings and shave six hours from the round-trip turn times to Atlanta, the companies announced.

“The upgrades made to this site will enhance Norfolk Southern’s ability to serve GPA customers safely and expeditiously, while providing for growth in coming years,” said Heller. “In addition to reduced transit times, the wye and the on-site improvements will benefit local residents through improved commuter safety.”

The state Department of Transportation and the Georgia Ports Authority worked in tandem on a Highway 307 overpass and the rail expansion projects in order to boost efficiency for both truck and rail transport. The DOT-funded overpass routes trucks above the one previous rail line and the six expanded tracks at Mason ICTF.

“This infrastructure investment helps prepare the Port of Savannah for projected increases in the share of container volumes moved via rail,” said GPA board chairman Robert Jepson. “Currently, 18% of Savannah’s container volume is moved by train.”

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