Mobile, AL — Any recent visitor to the Port of Mobile—Alabama’s only seaport and one that boasts access to nine different freight railroads—would be hard-pressed to find any signs of freight slowdowns or supply chain disruptions. In February the port had a boom month, with intermodal rail transfers growing 12.4% over the previous month and a massive 148% over February 2021.
This growth is underpinned in part by commitments from the Alabama Port Authority, state, and freight railroads to enhance intermodal rail connections both at the port and across Alabama. Boosting rail access to in-state destinations via the Port of Mobile is a particular focus for officials.
The “Alabama-USA” rail corridor project, announced by Governor Kay Ivey in January, will help bring this port access to central Alabama, including industrial sites in Calvert, Selma and Birmingham. The $232 million public-private partnership will take on a series of infrastructure improvements to enhance container capacity, with Norfolk Southern contributing over 50% of the project cost. The first A-USA Corridor phase will help link the Port of Mobile to the McCalla Intermodal Facility near Birmingham.
“The A-USA Corridor is an innovative public-private partnership that will strengthen the nation’s supply chain at a critical time and boost the regional economy,” said Alan Shaw, president of Norfolk Southern.
A new inland terminal will also connect the Port of Mobile to Montgomery—and help reestablish regularly scheduled CSX intermodal service from the port. The Port Authority in January purchased 272 acres for the new intermodal container transfer facility, which will be serviced by CSX. The railroad is contributing $12.5 million to infrastructure improvements to make it possible.
“This is another great example of how successful partnerships can help foster creative solutions for CSX customers,” said Tom Tisa, head of business development for CSX.
Hyundai’s recently expanded manufacturing plant and a recently announced Amazon distribution center will be among the customers served by the new terminal. The port authority says the project will generate 2,618 direct and indirect jobs, $340 million in business revenues, and more than $14.2 million in state and local taxes.
The port authority also welcomed good news last month when it received $38 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to enhance freight movement. It will again focus on intermodal—investing some of these funds into a connector bridge from its marine terminal to its intermodal container transfer facility to facilitate “direct, low emissions” transfers.
Self-funded freight railroads spend billions annually to maintain and enhance their networks. Across Alabama, 26 different freight railroads move nearly 160 million tons of freight annually, displacing some 8.8 million truckloads.