A Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) subsidiary in Georgia has completed track upgrades that match the capacity of the connecting Class I rail network.
The Georgia Central Railway, a 211-mile shortline railroad between Macon and Savannah, now has the ability to handle 286,000-pound railcar loadings, enabling it to bear the weight of typical Class I trains.
The upgrades come as the company and local and state officials are eyeing the anticipated volume growth that could come out of the Port of Savannah. The port in September detailed how it grew to handle one-fifth of East Coast port volumes in 2018, and the port has set its sights on becoming a more integral gateway to the U.S. Midwest.
The upgrades also follow an announcement by the state of Georgia in May, in which the state said it will invest $35 million in shortline railroads across Georgia so that Class II railroads can also run at 25 miles per hour and handle 286,000-pound loadings.
“This is an important milestone in ongoing improvements to the Georgia Central’s ability to serve the growing Savannah market, including industrial development projects that will utilize the Georgia Port Authority’s Garden City container terminal,” said Andy Chunko, Georgia Central president.
He continued, “The combination of 286,000-pound loadings and higher speeds will help us win a greater share of our customers’ freight volumes and make the line even more attractive to new industrial development.”
Georgia Central previously had a weight limit of 263,000 pounds because some of the line’s 55 bridges couldn’t handle heavier weights.
But the railroad invested $4 million to up the weight capacity of its network, and it installed 3,200 bridge stringers and 10,000 crossties. It also received a $4 million federal grant from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program. Both funds enabled the short line to increase track speed to 25 miles per hour across the line.
Earlier this spring, G&W said Georgia Central would serve a $172 million plastics distribution facility currently under construction at the Savannah Port Logistics Center. The facility could ship more than 5,000 carloads annually as soon as later this year.
Georgia Central currently serves shippers of chemicals, farm and food products, fertilizers, forest products, metals, minerals and stone, plastics and pulp and paper.