Port Everglades breaks ground on $73 million rail hub project

Florida Gov. Rick Scott took part in ground-breaking ceremonies this month for a $73 million project at Port Everglades aimed to bring trains next to piers to speed transport of cargo.

Containerized freight arriving at the Broward County seaport now is loaded on trucks and then, either transferred to trains at a nearby hub or carried to its final destination by road. Sending freight directly onto trains will be less costly and less time consuming. Trains are cheaper than trucks for long-distance travel, officials said at the Jan. 17 ground-breaking.

The rail hub should help Port Everglades attract more freight arriving from Asia after the expansion of the Panama Canal. Goods will be more easily transported by train to areas in north Florida and beyond, Port Everglades officials said.

Funding for the $73 million “Intermodal Container Transfer Facility” comes from a mix of public and private sources.

The county-owned port donated 42.5 acres of land valued at $20 million, and the Florida Department of Transportation provided an $18 million grant. Florida East Coast Railway, the rail hub’s private developer and operator, is investing $35 million, including its repayment of a $30 million loan from Florida’s State Infrastructure Bank.

To facilitate the rail hub, the Florida Department of Transportation also is building a $40 million overpass to elevate I-595/Eller Drive to allow trains to access the port at ground level.

Construction on the overpass began in July 2011 and should be finished next year. The rail hub also should be completed in 2014, according to port leaders.

Meanwhile, Gov. Scott also committed to provide $13 million to Port Everglades’ turning notch extension, which will add more dock space for the South Florida seaport.