A stretch of land down the road off Highway 441 South in McIntyre holds weighty possibilities of Milledgeville and Baldwin County’s future in the short-term and beyond.
At 18,120 feet long, the newly completed passing siding rail line on Dedrick Road in Wilkinson County creates access for not only transporting goods and freight but also delivering economic development growth as well. The rail project, which took a year to complete, aims to help increase the transport speed on Norfolk Southern’s Savannah to Atlanta line, making the location of facilities in both counties more attractive to corporations and impacting their future. It also impacts the future of Baldwin County and Wilkinson County as broader conversations on the future of transportation and the delivery of goods and services are held throughout the remainder of the state. For the past few years, state officials and leaders along Georgia’s coast have worked to bring focus and funding to the Port of Savannah in an effort to continue deepening the port’s harbor.
Savannah is one of the nation’s busiest container ports already, yet it has the shallowest waterway of any major U.S. port. State officials have long argued they need deeper water to stay competitive as cargo ships grow larger. Savannah and other East Coast ports are racing to deepen their harbors to accommodate supersize cargo ships after the Panama Canal completes a major expansion in 2014. The upgraded canal will handle ships needing 50 feet of water. The race to deepen the ports is on — and there is heavy competition coming out of South Carolina as leaders there are working to deepen its harbor from 45 to 50 feet, with completion expected between 2020 and 2024.
To best South Carolina’s efforts, Georgia port officials are pushing to get it done by the end of 2016.
How does this impact Baldwin County and how, if at all, does it relate to the rail project in McIntyre? As the Savannah port project continues, Georgia’s role in transporting goods is elevated, with more freight coming through our state’s channels. The heavier port traffic increases the need to get freight transported across the state — making Baldwin County and Central Georgia a focal point and the newly completed rail project and work on the Fall Line Freeway even more significant. The potential for economic development opportunities — jobs along the area of the rail line and making the location of facilities in both Baldwin and Wilkinson more attractive to corporations. The road to this point in the development process has been long and winding, but the efforts of leaders in both counties coupled with the work of the Fall Line Regional Development Authority has brought us to this point. Continuing to look at the broader picture, where Baldwin County fits in it all by not losing focus, is imperative for the future of this area.