BMW logistics get boost from U.S. grant

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BMW exports crossovers from its plant in Spartanburg, S.C., to China.

WASHINGTON — A $ 25 million federal Department of Transportation grant supporting the expansion of an inland port for containers will directly benefit logistics operations at BMW in South Carolina and other manufacturers in the region.

The award was part of $ 1.5 billion in discretionary funding unveiled Tuesday for 91 road, rail, transit and port projects across the country, including ones for new infrastructure useful for autonomous and electric vehicles.

BMW was included on the application for the intermodal project in Greer, which is being spearheaded by the South Carolina Ports Authority to extend the facility’s lead rail track and lengthen a rail siding to more than 15,000 feet to hold larger trains. The expansion, which port authority officials say could double capacity, includes acquiring additional cargo handling equipment and paving up to 40 additional acres for container storage.

The inland port, between Greenville and Spartanburg, has performed beyond expectations since it opened in 2013 as a cargo station for transferring import and export containers to and from the Port of Charleston by rail — essentially extending the port’s reach 212 miles closer to cargo owners and saving them from using more expensive long-haul truck transport. BMW relies on the terminal, which is linked to the port by the Norfolk Southern rail line, to streamline component imports from Germany.

“The inland port has been a valuable partner for BMW. They have handled over 180,000 containers for us over the past five years and created a much more efficient system for moving containerized product to and from the Port of Charleston,” Max Metcalf, a BMW spokesman, said in a statement tied to the facility’s five-year anniversary in October. “This success is likely replicated for suppliers and numerous other companies that use this facility.”

Since its inception in 2009, the DOT’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development program has been popular with public entities looking to build multimodal or multijurisdictional projects that don’t neatly fit into regular, formula-based state programs, which are typically tilted to highway improvements. Selection criteria include safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental protection and state of good repair. Further criteria included innovation, such as projects supporting connected or autonomous vehicle infrastructure, as well as projects that demonstrate partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Mobility grants

The DOT will give Colorado $ 20 million to create a commercial-scale connected-vehicle environment using vehicle-to-everything technology. The approximately 537-mile network will provide real-time communication with connected vehicles and install over 200 miles of fiber-optic lines to rural communities.

The network will send safety and mobility-critical messages to drivers through infrastructure-to-vehicle communication as well as notify the Colorado Department of Transportation about crashes or hazards on the road through vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.

In Florida, the City of Jacksonville will use a portion of its $ 25 million grant to deploy about 15 autonomous vehicles and safety technology, while a transit station expansion in the Miami area includes money for EV parking with charging stations.

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