The State Ports Authority is getting a $25 million federal grant to help pay for an expansion at a Spartanburg County cargo hub that links the Upstate with the Charleston waterfront.
The funds — part of the Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development program — are administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The award was announced this week.
The money will help pay for an expansion at the Greer site that includes more room to stack containers, track improvements and construction of a third rail line where Norfolk Southern freight trains can be marshaled before they're loaded.
The SPA, which operates the Port of Charleston, also plans to buy two more cranes that move cargo containers between trucks and rail cars.
The maritime agency also is building a chassis yard on an adjacent property where the trailers used to haul cargo boxes over the road will be stored.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called the grant "great news for manufacturers who use the inland port in Greer and the Port of Charleston," adding the additional investment "will pay dividends for American manufacturing in the years to come."
Graham and fellow South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott of Charleston said the improvements will increase shipping capacity and efficiency at the site.
"We have a diverse economy in the state and need to ensure that every mode of transportation of our goods is top-notch," Scott said.
The entire South Carolina delegation lobbied DOT secretary Elaine Chao for the funding.
Jim Newsome, the authority's president and CEO, said the Upstate inland port is expected to see a "significant increase" in volumes during the coming year as the nearby BMW plant exports more of its cars disassembled in metal containers — known as knocked down or semi-knocked down vehicles. The practice can help avoid tariffs because the cars are reassembled at a foreign factory.
The inland port opened in 2013 and handled a record 117,812 containers in its most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30 — 28.5 percent better than fiscal 2016. It has seen a 10 percent increase in cargo during the first quarter of this fiscal year.
The facility's success prompted the authority to open a second inland port this year in Dillon, with CSX Corp. servicing the facility along the Interstate 95 corridor.