Inland ports and freight railroads work together to boost Georgia economy.

Murray County, Ga. — In 2018, the Appalachian Regional Port (ARP) will open as Georgia’s newest inland port, boasting an initial annual capacity of 50,000 containers with development plans to double that capacity over the next 10 years. Its service area will include North Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and parts of Kentucky. By providing a direct link to the Port of Savannah, ARP will create and expand international markets for regional businesses, furthering the economic success of the Southeastern U.S.

The ARP project kicked off in 2015 when Governor Nathan Deal, the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA), Murray County and CSX Transportation signed a Memorandum of Agreement to establish the facility in Chatsworth. Featuring on-terminal rail, it will sit on 42 acres in Northwest Georgia’s Murray County, offering easy access to Interstate 75 via U.S. 411.

But ARP is just the latest development in Georgia’s broader Network Georgia and Rapid Routes initiatives, which seek to establish rail hubs around the state to offer shippers faster and more reliable service via direct access to rail ramps on-terminal. This network will eventually include inland ports in six regions to cover all of Georgia and parts of the southeast.

“Investments such as this and the related inland rail facilities throughout Georgia will help shift more containers from truck to rail, allowing greater efficiency and reduced highway congestion,” said Jimmy Allgood, chairman of the GPA board, to Business in Savannah when discussing a FAST (“Fixing America’s Surface Transportation”) Act grant GPA received last year. “Rail cargo will play an important role in our future, not only increasing our capacity, but opening up new markets for Georgia’s ports.”

In 2013 GPA tapped Cordele Intermodal Services (CIS) to operate another inland intermodal center and create an “inland gateway” to the Port of Savannah. The Cordele Inland Port sits on 40 acres in the Crisp County Industrial Park, less than one mile from Interstate 75, Georgia Highway 300, and Georgia Highway 280.

“Rail cargo will play an important role in our future, not only increasing our capacity, but opening up new markets for Georgia’s ports.”

The Cordele Inland Port, like ARP, supports vital rail connections. It is served by two short line railroads, Heart of Georgia and Georgia Central, with access to CSX and Norfolk Southern, and offers overnight rail access three times weekly to the Port of Savannah. It also offers a 200-mile rail route to the GPA’s Garden City Terminal.

Construction has commenced on a double track rail spur that will connect CSX and Heart of Georgia through the Cordele facility. This connectivity will give existing Cordele businesses the ability to ship greater volumes via rail. For example, the Kia plant in West Point — 80 miles southwest of Atlanta — uses the Cordele Inland Port to move its products, including the Kia Optima, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. The rail corridor’s efficiency means that Kia enjoys five-day weekly service with next-day availability.

Freight rail connects Georgia businesses to markets nationally and worldwide and is powering economic growth in the south.