Rain swells cost of inland port expansion

Under an agreement with the State Ports Authority, Norfolk Southern will haul shipping containers between Charleston and the inland port in Spartanburg County.

The new inland port in Greer is costing the State Ports Authority more than anticipated.

The maritime agency’s board of directors Tuesday approved an additional $2.7 million for the nearly 100-acre intermodal yard that opened this week near Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in the Upstate.

The extra money is needed to cover costs largely caused by “fast-tracking this project” and 75 days of rain, said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the SPA.

“Our construction costs are higher than estimated, again,” he said.

The SPA staff added the $2.7 million is broken down to $1.38 million for accelerating the construction schedule, $680,000 for weather conditions and $440,000 primarily for rock blasting.

An additional $200,000 is needed for contingencies, officials said.

The Greer terminal handles shipping containers to be transferred between trucks and Norfolk Southern rail cars that run between the Upstate and Charleston.

The SPA board’s unanimous decision on Tuesday came just months after the panel approved an additional $12.9 million for the development. That increase included $2.2 million to move a tenant off the property and the acquisition of more land.

Including the previous increases, the SPA is paying $43.9 million and Norfolk Southern will contribute $7.5 million toward the project, officials said.

The inland port opened this week with some initial shipments by German automaker BMW, which has a large assembly plant nearby, officials said.

Construction is anticipated to run through the end of the year, Newsome said.

“In the long term, the inland port will be catalyst for redefining how distribution is done in South Carolina and surrounding areas,” Newsome said. “We have to focus on innovative solutions to logistics challenges. I think we’ll look back on this as an extremely good investment.”

Locally, the Upstate site is expected to trim the volume of port-related trucks, especially on U.S. Interstate 26.

In other business, the SPA board Tuesday approved $840,990 for the engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff to study improvements that will be needed to accommodate larger vessels and cranes at the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant.

Opened in 1982, Wando Welch is Port of Charleston’s main container terminal.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 843-937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.