LaGrange’s planned inland port to have major impact

Published 9:35 am Saturday, January 13, 2024

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LaGrange is set to become the host city for Georgia’s newest port, the West Georgia Inland Port.

The proposed port is a dry port, meaning it’s not on a waterway. The ports are sometimes referred to as “inland” ports as they provide central distribution points for distribution of cargo after leaving more traditional ports.

The West Georgia Inland Port will connect LaGrange to the port in Savannah via CSX rail. The port will help distribute foods that come into Georgia via ships at the Port of Savannah. Currently, an average of 14,000 trucks a day disperse those products throughout the country.

LaGrange Development Authority President Scott Malone, who has been working to bring the inland port to LaGrange since 2016, said one of the main purposes of inland ports is to reduce truck traffic off of the roads and highways.

Goods come into Savannah via boat, and they are then transported to manufacturers and retailers throughout the country. Rather than putting those on trucks for transport, the goods can be put on rail and shipped straight to LaGrange where KIA, Walmart and other companies will use or further distribute them.

Inland ports help speed up the flow of cargo between ships and land transportation networks.

That speed helps local manufacturers get their final products out, but it also reduces wear and tear on Georgia roads.

“It gets here faster, first of all, because it goes right off the boat right onto the rail and then they ship it up here and so it’s a lot faster turnaround time getting off the boat and getting to the finished product out,” Malone said.

Malone said more importantly it’s estimated that the planned West Georgia Inland Port would take almost 30 million truck miles a year off of the roads for Georgia, just between West Georgia and the Savannah port.

The Georgia Port Authority has already acquired a 200-acre site next to CSX rail in LaGrange for the planned inland port. It’s being built near the Walmart Distribution Center and will have easy access to both Interstate 85 and Interstate 185.

Malone said the port itself is around a $75 million project, relatively small compared to some of the industrial projects in Troup County, but it will have a big impact.

“The impact comes from it because all the companies that want to locate around it,” Malone said.

The companies get their goods into LaGrange faster via rail and then they either disperse it out further, or it’s used and sold locally.

Malone said that goods coming into the LaGrange port will be their final destination for rail. The goods will either be sent out locally or distributed throughout the southeast via truck. The containers filled with goods will come in via rail and they’ll have cranes that will either put them on trucks or onsite storage to distribute out, he said.

Malone said inland ports need about 50,000 containers to come through annually to make it worth it. The LaGrange port is expecting about 120,000 containers per year. Much of that will be for Kia which uses about 25,000 containers per year on their own.

The West Georgia inland port is expected to be operational sometime between the end of 2026 and the beginning of 2027.

This project will have a major impact on LaGrange and Troup County and a lot of people don’t know what the inland port is, Malone said.

“When we first started talking about it people said, ‘Where’s the water?’” Malone joked.

“I think it’ll probably be the most impactful project — outside of Kia — in this community over the next 20 years. I think it’s going to be that profound,” Malone said.