- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

GREER, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s new inland port was praised Friday as a not only being good for the economy and bringing in jobs, but also good for the environment and saving wear and tear on the state’s infrastructure.

The new $25 million inland port opened in October and provides a direct rail link between the Upstate and South Carolina Ports Authority terminals on the coast. During its first year of operation it is expected to mean 25,000 fewer truck trips on busy Interstate 26 between the mountains and Charleston.

On Friday, Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham joined about 150 other businesspeople and elected officials to welcome Norfolk Southern president and CEO Wick Moorman to the inland port just off Interstate 95. Moorman and Ports Authority officials arrived on a vintage Norfolk Southern train with a locomotive and passenger cars from the mid- 20th Century.

The inland port is both good for the state and the businesses that use it, Moorman said.

“It saves fuel, it saves emissions and alleviates congestion,” he said, adding the inland port is the latest example of cooperation between the state and the railroad and its predecessor companies dating to the 1800s.

Haley said the inland port will mean South Carolina companies will be able to get their products to market faster.

“This all comes back to the fact that this is jobs,” she said. “This really sets us off to a whole new level when the rest of the country is looking at us.”

“The Port of Charleston is not yet at 50 feet. But it certainly is a lot wider than it was before. This port is now 212 miles wide,” Graham said, referring to the distance from Greer to the coast. Studies are currently underway on the feasibility of deepening the Charleston Harbor shipping channel from its current 45 feet to 50 feet.

“The bottom line, in my point of view, is you have taken the two economic engines of the state - the Port of Charleston and the I-85 Corridor - and you have linked them together,” Graham added.

Jim Newsome, the Ports Authority’s president and CEO said that, within five years, he expects the inland terminal will mean 100,000 fewer trucks a year traveling on Interstate 26 across the state.

U.S. Reps. Trey Gowdy of the 4th District and Jeff Duncan of the 3rd District also attended the Friday event.