State allocates $350M for major ports rail project to alleviate congestion

The state budget allocated $350 million for a ports project aimed at relieving congestion on the roads and at sea.
Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 2:57 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2022 at 6:18 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As part of the state budget passed by the South Carolina House of Representatives, lawmakers have allocated $350 million to a ports project aimed at relieving congestion on the road and at sea.

The South Carolina Ports Authority is moving forward with the development of the Navy Base Intermodal Facility. An intermodal facility is a place where shipping containers can be brought in from the Wando Welch Terminal and the Hugh Leatherman Terminal and then picked up by trains.

Jim Newsome, president and CEO of SC Ports, says they need more space to move containers offer the Charleston terminals.

“Basically, we had 30,000 containers on all our terminals two years ago, we have 60,000 now,” Newsome said. “When you’re discharging a ship of 1,000 containers, you want to put all those containers conveniently in one place. It’s impossible to do that.”

The project will see additional railroad tracks built on the old Navy Yard that will connect the facility to major railways CSX and Norfolk Southern. Newsome says near dock rail is the most efficient way to move freight and the crowded Wando Welch Terminal doesn’t have that amenity.

He says they’ll have to move containers from the terminal to the intermodal facility across the Cooper River.

“What will happen is that roughly about half the rail bound containers to and from Wando will go by barge, the ones that are not as time sensitive,” Newsome said. “And then the other half will go by truck to reduce the demand on truck capacity.”

The state legislature already allocated $200 million to the project last year, which Newsome says he hopes will be up and running by 2025. Newsome says the rail yard will reduce the reliance on truck drivers and speed delivery of goods.

“It’s sorely needed to modernize our local rail infrastructure,” Newsome said. “We’ve done a really good job with our inland port network in the port in Greer and the inland port in Dillon, South Carolina. Together they handle about 200,000 containers a year so that takes trucks off the road if you think about it that way. Our rail infrastructure in Charleston is imperfect, and we need to make that better.”

Palmetto Railways are partnering with the ports on this project. They’re a division of South Carolina Department of Commerce. More information on the project can be found here.

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