SC Ports OKs $100M+ in contracts for N. Charleston facility
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina Ports Authority has voted to enter into contracts worth over $100 million to design and build a new facility at the old U.S. Navy base in North Charleston.
The authority has broken ground on the $400 million railyard near McMillian Avenue, which is funded by the state legislature. The contracts the board approved Tuesday afternoon are the next step in moving it forward and ramping up construction.
“It has roadways so that the trains don’t interfere with passenger traffic,” SC Ports Authority President and CEO Barbara Melvin said about the facility. “It has an additional rail track. It has the facility itself, along with equipment. A lot of design has already occurred, and now we’re moving into construction, which is the really exciting piece of this as we see the project coming out of the ground, so it’s a big deal.”
When built, the facility will handle cargo from Norfolk Southern and CSX, which Melvin said represents 25% of their current business.
“We expect to be able to handle a million rail lifts, and as we move into phase two, which is the second part of the design, it moves to 1.3 million rail lifts,” she said.
Board members awarded a contract worth just under $120 million to Landmark Construction to build the site itself. This contract includes building sound walls, rail foundations, 11 processing tracks and four arrival and departure tracks.
They also unanimously voted to pay over $4.3 million to design around 15 miles of rail that would head south from the facility toward Charleston before wrapping back to North Charleston.
Juan Gordon, the president of Coalition 18, which represents around 900 truckers in the Lowcountry, said the facility could do some harm to local drivers who rely on a distribution system called rapid rail. This is a system designed to move cargo from ports to areas more inland.
“I’m against it because I know people who solely depend on that program,” Gordon said. “I know people who that’s all they do is rapid rail, and they have been doing it for 10, 20 years now.”
Gordon said he does not see the facility causing truckers to turn in their keys, adding that future projects could help offset the lost business.
“We’re such a huge port community here in Charleston,” he said. “I believe we’ll find a way like we’ve done so many times.”
Melvin said they are still on track to be handling their first trains at the facility in the summer of 2025.
“This is a next great step for us, as we are a very competitive top 10 port to become an import gateway for the United States as well as having our cargo reach further into land,” Melvin said.
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