By Matt Tomsic
Published July 9, 2012
The S.C. State Ports Authority is pursing an inland port in Greer, extending its reach more than 200 miles closer to its Upstate and other regional customers.
“It’s been our belief that the successful growth of intermodal container units really requires us to look beyond our traditional port facilities,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the ports authority, during today’s board meeting called to discuss the project. “This is an exciting first step.”
The board took that first step this morning, approving a $1.1 million design contract to Patrick Engineering and its local partner, Davis & Floyd. Port officials expect the entire project to cost roughly $23.5 million and to be completed within 18 months.
The contract will cover the design of the rail facilities, container handling facilities, storage facilities, civil and structural site work, and surveying.
The inland port has the potential to take 50,000 trucks off the highway and will be a partnership between the port and Norfolk Southern, which will operate the trains coming and going from the inland port.
At its start, Newsome said, the inland port will take about 25,000 trucks off the highway. The facility will provide an overnight train service from the port’s docks to the rail facility in Greer. Newsome said Upstate-based customers like BMW, Michelin and Adidas could use the facility.
The ports authority purchased roughly 100 acres in Greer in 1982 to build an inland port, but the land wasn’t developed. The inland port is expected to be roughly 40 or 50 acres, said Bill Stern, the chairman of the ports authority board, and Newsome said the design contract will determine whether the port needs to acquire more land through purchases or swaps.
Newsome said the project’s importance is similar to the importance of the new Navy base terminal and the harbor deepening project.
Trucks will haul containers from port property to an existing Norfolk Southern-run rail yard in North Charleston off Goer Drive. There, workers will load the containers onto a train that will run overnight to Greer.
“Right now, Norfolk Southern has plenty of capacity off Goer Drive to handle the anticipated volumes,” Newsome said, adding less than 20% of the port’s pier terminals leave on trains.
Newsome said the service will efficiently move cargo to the Interstate 85 corridor, which is poised for growth, and more than 200 miles closer to major rail developments in Charlotte and Atlanta.
Initially, the facility will handle more imports, but officials hope more loaded containers will return to Charleston since empty containers will be near one of the port’s customer bases in the Upstate.
Newsome said the port also envisions a distribution cluster establishing itself near the facility and the inland port will have an immediate impact on the port’s revenues. The facility will create jobs but estimates have not been established.
The ports authority plans to update the board at its next meeting on July 17.