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$231M rail project to connect Port of Mobile to central Alabama

A-USA Corridor project will initially link Port of Mobile with intermodal facility in Birmingham

Alabama is partnering with Norfolk Southern to fund a $231.6 million rail corridor project that aims to connect the Port of Mobile to industrial sites in the Birmingham area. Pictured is the Port of Mobile. (Photo: Alabama State Port Authority)

Alabama officials announced Tuesday plans for a 280-mile rail initiative to enable more efficient transport to and from the Port of Mobile — the state’s only seaport. Norfolk Southern is funding more than 50% of the project.

State officials said the $231.6 million A-USA Corridor could help improve the nation’s supply chain, along with attracting more manufacturing, warehousing and distribution facilities to Alabama.

“Creating good port access to central Alabama is a key part of this initiative, and it can provide options for freight containers to reach new destinations inland, which our country has struggled with during the supply chain crisis,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement. 

Watch: Lee Klaskow discuss the future of supply chains during FreightWaves’ Domestic Supply Chain Summit.

The first phase of the A-USA Corridor initiative involves a $71.6 million project to link the Port of Mobile with the McCalla Intermodal Facility near Birmingham. The facility is operated by Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC)

The rail corridor could ultimately link economic development sites across four Alabama counties, stretching from the Port of Mobile to Birmingham, as well as a site near the city of Gadsden, toward the northeast corner of the state.

Norfolk Southern is initially investing $5.7 million in the A-USA Corridor for infrastructure improvements to the Little Canoe Creek site, just outside Gadsden.

The first phase of the A-USA Corridor project also involves 12 specific track, signal and yard improvements on Norfolk Southern rail lines between Mobile and Birmingham, as well as Selma, Alabama.

In addition to funding from Norfolk Southern, the state is investing $5 million, with the remaining $110.8 million coming from present and future federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program grants obtained through the Alabama Department of Transportation in partnership with Norfolk Southern.

The Port of Mobile handled 424,473 twenty-foot equivalent units during 2020, while moving 23 million tons of cargo. The port also handled 165,059 railcars for the year.

Top commodities that pass through the Port of Mobile include heavy lift and oversized cargo, coal, aluminum, iron, steel, copper, lumber, veneers, roll and cut paper, cement, and chemicals.

“The Alabama Port Authority welcomes this vital project as we address rapid growth in the port’s container intermodal and freight business lines,” John C. Driscoll, the port authority’s director and CEO, said in a statement. “The Norfolk Southern rail improvements will bolster capacity, reliability and market access through the Port of Mobile for regional supply chains.”

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]