Metro traffic congestion to be eased as seaport cargo shifts from truck to rail
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the location of the cargo facility.
By David Pendered
Metro Atlanta commuters can find solace in a factoid nestled in a report released Thursday by the Georgia Ports Authority. Some 50,000 trucks a year are to be removed from the region’s highways once an inland port served by rail opens next year in Chatsworth, officials say.
The number of truck trips that are eliminated is likely to rise in the future.
The inland cargo transfer yard that’s to open in 2018 is poised to help handle increasing amounts of cargo that’s to be diverted from highways to the CSX railroad. This will become more significant as the amount of cargo increases as Savannah handles the huge container ships built to use the expanded Panama Canal.
Savannah’s reach as a seaport could extend into the Mississippi Valley, according to some forecasts. Such a service district likely would spur big increases in the number of imported containers and those headed for export.
This increased reliance on rail addresses concerns raised in the past by board members of GRTA. GRTA is the state agency that advises on mobility and air quality in metro Atlanta. GRTA also advises on the Xpress commuter buses that serve 12 metro counties.
In particular, GRTA board member J.T. Williams has raised the issue that highways in metro Atlanta likely are to become more burdened as the port spurs an uptick in truck movements. The additional vehicles could worsen mobility and air quality.
If the inland port takes just 50,000 trucks a year of the roads, an average of 137 trucks a day that won’t be passing through metro Atlanta on I-285 and the I-75 corridor, according to a quick calculation of the port’s figures. The number presumes trucks travel each day of the year.
The actual number of trucks that are diverted could be significantly higher.
That’s because shippers sometimes have to send a truck into metro Atlanta to retrieve a container to carry the cargo. Sometimes shippers have to send a truck all the way to the Savannah port to retrieve a container.
In each situation, a truck passes through the region to pick up a container; the truck passes through the region to deliver the container; the truck passes through a third time en route to the seaport.
The Georgia Ports Authority broke ground this year on the Appalachian Regional Port, in Chatsworth. Chatsworth is in Murray County, about 15 miles east of Dalton.
Here are highlights of the Georgia Ports Authority forecast about the Dalton cargo handling facility. The facility:
- “Expands GPA’s reach into Tennessee, Northeast Alabama and parts of Kentucky.
- “Will cut Atlanta truck traffic by 50,000 trips per year;
- “Each container moved by the Appalachian Regional Port will offset 355 truck miles, reducing 8 million miles in the first year;
- “Trucks will travel shorter distances and make less frequent trips, while still providing a vital gateway for U.S. manufacturers in global markets.”
A sister facility in Cordele is providing similar relief for roadways in South Georgia. Port officials on Friday released a report that shows shippers are using it to reach markets from South Georgia to the Florida Panhandle, Alabama and Mississippi.
The Cordele facility is served by two short lines that travel to and from the port in Savannah, Heart of Georgia and Georgia Central. The facility is owned by the Crisp County Development Authority.
The facility handled a total of nearly 30,000 containers in the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to the report. The cargo includes 10,000 containers headed to Savannah for export, and 8,300 containers that were imported via the port.