Harbor expansion could bring Talmadge Bridge changes, possible replacement

State of the Ports Address held in Savannah

SAVANNAH, GA - (WTOC) - In his final Savannah State of the Ports Address, Governor Nathan Deal applauded the efforts of both state and federal lawmakers.

They were able to secure more than $300 million in funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. The governor pointed out more ships and expanded port operations will only mean more growth for the region in the coming decades.

“When you have that many vessels that will actually unload their cargo here at the Savannah Port, most of it is going to be distributed in our state, or throughout the entire United States, and that adds to a lot of opportunity for our entire state," Gov. Deal said.

Georgia Ports' 10-year, $2.5 billion plan to expand the capacity of the Garden City Terminal was another highlight of of the State of the Ports Address.

The annual event outlined several goals for the port, coming off another record-setting year of productivity. To the room filled with stakeholders who all depend on the port in some capacity, the executive director for the Georgia Ports Authority painted a very optimistic and ambitious picture for the future.

“We’re gonna give you the highlights of the Port, we’re going to talk about where we are and where we’re going in the future,” said Griff Lynch, Georgia Ports Authority.

The latest fiscal year cycle saw a record 4.2-million containers move through the Georgia Ports, with Savannah cargo growth outpacing the rest of the nation.

Helping the GPA reach new heights over the next 10 years will be the completion of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, now about halfway done.

“We’re on the downhill side of this project. We have one major project left, the inner Harbor, which spans from Tybee Island all the way up to Garden City," Lynch said.

Once completed, it’ll clear a path for the worlds largest ships, carrying around 22,000 containers.

With infrastructure, a waterway, and terminal that can handle that sized ship, there’s one catch: they wouldn’t fit under the Talmadge Bridge.

“So I’m here to tell you today that we are going to start a process. We are going to work closely with the Georgia Department of Transportation, and we hope to work closely with the General Assembly to start planning the relief of the Talmadge Bridge, and I say relief lately; really the replacement because that is what needs to happen over the coming 10 years to ensure that when these ships come, we will be ready," Lynch said.

Lynch told the audience not to worry, though, explaining these ships only account for about 1.5-percent of all the vessels in the world. He added that experts have said it could be a matter of about a decade before those ships start calling on Savannah.

In 10 years, the Georgia Ports Authority wants to double the number of TEUs handled this last fiscal cycle, meaning eight million by 2028.

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