CHARLESTON — The South Carolina State Ports Authority board agreed Monday to begin engineering studies on an inland port in Greer to provide more efficient movement of cargo to the coast by rail.
“It’s been our belief that the successful growth of intermodal container movements in our state and in our region really requires us to look beyond our traditional port facilities,” authority President and CEO Jim Newsome told the board during a teleconference.
The new facility, described by Newsome as “a port without water” and to be developed with Norfolk Southern, will be operated by the authority. It will provide a place for transferring shipping containers between trains and trucks for shipment to or from the coast.
The plan has big advantages for South Carolina motorists. Newsome estimated that the port could eventually eliminate 50,000 truck trips a year on busy Interstate 26 between Charleston and the Greenville-Spartanburg area.
The board agreed to hire an engineering firm to develop plans for the facility in the busy Interstate 85 corridor that will be built mainly on land the authority already owns. The authority bought 100 acres for such a facility 30 years ago.
The board agreed to award a $1.1 million contract to Patrick Engineering to work out plans for the terminal. Those engineering studies will develop the total cost. The authority has $23 million set aside to develop the project.
The terminal will mean some new jobs in the Greer area, although Newsome said the specific number is not now known. He said he hopes the inland port can be operational within a year and a half.
“It puts a very robust and capable port facility 220 miles in the interior and extends our footprint into the interior,” he said later. “The advantages being that we can handle containers in a very capable fashion closer to where they are needed and move them in a more efficient way, incorporating more rail movement and taking some pressure off I-26.”
He said the port envisions an overnight train service between Charleston and upstate South Carolina, where a container could come into the port late in the day and be available near customers upstate for the open of business the next morning. He added it also could lead to more distribution centers in that area upstate.
“I look at this as a mini-North Charleston Terminal or a mini-Wando Terminal without the ships in the interior,” he told the board.