Jacksonville, FL — “You’re kind of at the heart of the intermodal network,” said Kevin Thorpe, chief economist for global commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield, describing Jacksonville at an event last week.
Referring to the city’s robust rail and port connections, Thorpe echoed a common sentiment felt by economic development professionals throughout the city and region: the Jacksonville industrial market is “as close to a can’t miss [as] there is” right now.
On top of this momentum, city officials announced a $238 million deal in early March to expand a container facility at the Port of Jacksonville — a move prioritized with the recent expansion of the Panama Canal. The Jacksonville Port Authority (Jaxport) will partner with Seattle-based SSA Marine, one of the largest port operators in the world, to both expand its terminal on Blount Island and continue deepening efforts for an 11-mile stretch of channel. As part of the expansion, SSA Marine will also construct three new, 100-gauge cranes to handle added volume.
This new expansion will likely increase volume considerably at Jaxport, which is already the third-largest seaport in Florida and eighth-largest on the East Coast. Rail is a critical partner in alleviating congestion, taking about 4.8 million trucks off of Florida roads annually.
Jacksonville-based CSX expects an uptick in its rail freight volume as well, with rail lines positioned to serve Deep South, mid-South, and Midwest customers from the intermodal facility at Jaxport. Norfolk Southern and Florida East Coast Railway also serve the port. The overall port expansion, worth over $400 million, is well ahead of schedule and is projected to be fully implemented over 25 years.
Since the expansion of the Panama Canal, East Coast ports like Savannah and Charleston have been steadily expanding and deepening, adding capacity to receive big ships that previously landed on the West coast but whose freight was ultimately destined for the highly-populated East.
“We are thrilled to partner with a major international terminal operator that is as dedicated as we are to contributing to the economic vitality of Northeast Florida,” said Jaxport CEO Eric Green after the announcement of the expansion deal.
Together with trucks and ships, America’s freight railroads are part of an interconnected intermodal network that delivers 54 tons of goods for every American annually.