Georgia Ports Authority board approves railroad expansion project

GARDEN CITY, GA (WTOC) - A major expansion project at the ports could have a big economic impact on our state and region.

The board approved spending for the $128 million project this week.

The rail expansion part of this project should cut down on truck traffic. It will also put an end to traffic nightmares on Main Street in front of the port.

Hundreds if not thousands of trucks leave the Georgia ports every day. That number, though, could go down by 2020.

The project - dubbed the Mason Mega Rail project - will allow the ports to double their export by railroad. Construction will combine two terminals into one. It also allows for rail switches on site.

The plans also include new rail lines that will go under 25. An overpass will go over the canal and those new rail lines. It will prevent trains from blocking Main Street in the future.

"It's going to have a significant benefit by increasing capacity and at the same time reducing congestion and impact on the community," Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch.

Construction begins next year. Locally, Garden City leaders are excited for what the expansion means for them and others around the area.

"We appreciate the neighbor as far as the Georgia Ports is concerned. We're very pleased with the projects they're going to put in place. It's going to have a big impact on our city," Mayor Don Bethune said.

Federal grants will pay for about a third of the project. The ports will pick up most of the rest.

The expansion is in conjunction with the harbor deepening. Lynch points to growth in recent months and years when discussing the importance of this project.

"We want to make sure that we can absorb growth like that when it happens and when we run into our peak season so the way to do that is to continue to invest in our infrastructure. The state has done the same thing outside our gates as well," Lynch said.

The rail capacity with these improvements will double to around one million containers a year. Last year, they moved around 350,000 containers so you can see the impact this will have.

Georgia DOT is also working on another project that may ease traffic.

The Brampton Road connector will include building a four-lane highway and State Route Spur to connect Brampton Road, Georgia Ports Authority Gate 2 and Foundation Drive to SR 25, SR 21, and US 80.

This project will provide direct access to the Interstate System for the heavy commercial truck traffic.

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