South Carolinas new $50 million inland port, which began operating this month, is a monumental achievement for the state. Some say it could have as big an impact on the state, especially the Upstate, as the luring of BMW Manufacturing Co.
BMW, in fact, will be among the top customers for the new shipping center. Both are located near Greer.
Essentially, the huge inland port will both extend the reach of the port of Charleston by about 220 miles and significantly reduce truck traffic along Interstate 26. Instead of trucking goods from the Port of Charleston, the materials will be packed in huge, double-stacked containers and transported overnight by rail between Greer and Charleston.
This is a far more efficient way to move materials from the seaport inland. Initially, the new facility is expected to reduce roundtrip truck traffic from Charleston north by 25,000 trips a year, with the potential of more than doubling that in years ahead.
The project was announced in January of last year and construction began last March. Although the inland port is officially open for business, the original site plan was expanded from 40 to 50 acres, and about 10 more acres still must be developed.
The inland port is an integral part of a 10-year, $1.3 billion plan to improve the states port facilities. South Carolina wants to be ready when work on deepening and widening the Panama Canal is completed to allow giant container ships to deliver their loads to Atlantic ports.
The Port of Charleston will be dredged and deepened to accommodate the larger ships. Once containers are dropped there, shipping them by rail to the inland port will enhance the ability to reach other key cities by truck.
I like the location. I wouldnt trade locations, Jim Newsome, president and chief executive officer of the South Carolina Ports Authority, recently told reporters. If you think about it, youre 150 miles from Atlanta, youre 100 miles from Charlotte, and youre 150 miles from Kingsport, Tenn.
But the improved efficiency of moving containers from around the world to the inland port and beyond has the potential to make South Carolina a top global shipping hub that serves states nationwide.
This farsighted effort to upgrade the Port of Charleston and link it to the new inland port is likely to be a tremendous boost to the states economy for decades. At the same time, the use of the railroad to ship containers to the inland port will make hundreds of thousands of truck trips along I-26 unnecessary, reducing traffic, wear and tear on roads and highways, and pollution from the trucks.
All in all, the opening of this inland port is a big occasion for South Carolina.