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Port Authority delivers inland intermodal container facility to Decatur

Life along Decatur’s waterfront is about to get a little more busier.

On Tuesday, the Alabama Port Authority announced that the River City will be the home of the authority’s third intermodal container transfer facility.

The facility is in partnership with CSX Transportation and will complete rail connectivity from the intermodal facility at the Port of Mobile to customers in the central and northern parts of the state.

The port will redevelop a portion of a CSX facility, which will expedite its ability to serve customers in North Alabama.

“We are excited to announce the location of our second inland rail facility in Alabama, furthering our dedication to advancing logistics infrastructure in the region,” said Alabama Port Authority Director and CEO John Driscoll. “This expansion not only signifies our confidence in the local economy but also reflects our ongoing efforts to meet the evolving needs of our customers while contributing to the growth of the communities we serve.”

The North Alabama ICTF marks the next step in the Port Authority’s inland rail expansion and follows the ongoing success of its first inland rail partnership with CSX in Montgomery. More than $2.28 billion in private investments have been announced in the area since the Montgomery intermodal project began in 2022.

“CSX is proud to be part of the strategic collaboration with the Alabama Port Authority in establishing the North Alabama ICTF in Decatur. This project demonstrates our commitment to foster growth, connect markets, and propel economic progress for the region,” said Maryclare Kenney, CSX Vice President of Intermodal & Auto. “The facility’s strategic location improves multi-modal flexibility throughout the state and creates sustainable, dynamic, rail-to-truck transportation solutions for our customers.

“The North Alabama ICTF is a testament to CSX’s focus on delivering innovative, value-added solutions for our partners and stakeholders.”

The Decatur announcement comes on the heels of news last week that the Port Authority had a nearly $100 billion statewide economic impact in a single calendar year. Additionally, the Port was recently named by Forbes as the second fastest-growing port of entry into the United States.

The new facility is expected to bring a myriad of benefits to the region. In addition to creating job opportunities, fostering economic development, and providing a boost to the overall transportation network in North Alabama, the facility will relieve truck traffic on interstate and highway systems. One intermodal train can take up to 250 trucks off the roads, getting cargo closer to its final destination.

“The partnership between the Alabama Port Authority and CSX Transportation to establish this facility in Decatur not only acknowledges our accomplishments but also signifies a momentous stride in shaping the trajectory of Decatur’s economic impact statewide,” said Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling. “The establishment of the North Alabama ICTF brings immense economic potential to Decatur and the entire North Alabama region, and I am thrilled to witness the realization of the North Alabama ICTF project in Decatur.

“This is a landmark achievement in bolstering our city’s economic vitality.”

 The Port currently has more than $1 billion in capital projects underway statewide. The Port Authority will nearly double its cargo handling capacity upon completing an expansion currently underway at the container terminal.

In addition to the terminal expansion and the harbor deepening and widening project, the Alabama Port Authority plans to develop logistics facilities in Mobile and open an inland intermodal facility served by CSX in Montgomery. These projects are set to begin operation within the next two years and will provide new advantages and opportunities for shippers.

Other planned investments include constructing an inter-terminal connector bridge to create on-dock rail access at the container terminal, modernizing general cargo piers, and developing an inland intermodal facility in North Alabama.

“This facility not only enhances our connectivity within the region but also underscores Decatur’s commitment to fostering innovation and sustainable growth,” said Decatur City Council President Jacob Ladner. “We anticipate that this project will play a pivotal role in elevating Decatur’s standing as a key player in the Southeast’s economic landscape, bringing about increased opportunities and prosperity for our community and beyond.”

These projects are primarily funded through federal budget appropriations and grants championed by former Sen. Richard Shelby. In addition to federal funding, the Alabama State Legislature allocated $20 million in 2023 to modernize the Port’s McDuffie Coal Terminal.

Beyond these public funding sources, the Port reinvests all revenue outside of operating expenses in improving and expanding its facilities.

The Port of Mobile provides access to an international airport and two interstate systems, I-65 running north/south and I-10 running east/west. The intermodal facility provides access to five Class I and four short-line railroads. From Mobile, containers can reach Chicago in three days.

The Alabama Port Authority serves all 67 counties and oversees the deep-water public port facilities at the Port of Mobile. In addition to interstate, air, and rail, the Port Authority’s container, general cargo, and bulk facilities have immediate access to nearly 15,000 miles of inland waterways.

Once the channel deepening and widening project is completed, the Port of Mobile will be the deepest container terminal in the Gulf of Mexico.

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