The Alabama State Port Authority today announced construction of an intermodal container transfer facility that will open Mobile to several new markets.

The 70-acre facility will make the Port of Mobile a viable option for containerized freight and open up markets, like Memphis and Chicago, Port CEO Jimmy Lyons said. It takes too long by truck for Mobile to be a viable market for those cities, but with containerized freight, goods can travel from the local port to many portions of the Midwest.

“It gets us into the Midwest, which we haven’t had access to before,” Lyons said. “It provides for new shipping lines into the city.”

Unlike traditional rail freight, which features boxcars full of goods and which carry coal, containerized rail shipping is more closely aligned with trucking, in terms of what can be hauled. The difference is containerized rail is more efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly, Port Vice President of Marketing Judy Adams said.

“Containerized rail is six times more efficient … and (creates) four times fewer greenhouse emissions,” Adams said. “It takes a truck off the road.”

Officials with Canadian National railway also joined for the announcement. CN will carry the freight from Mobile, through the Midwest and into parts of Canada, John Orr, CN Senior Vice President for the Southern Region, said.

“CN is excited to be here,” he said. “It’s an important investment for our company.”

Crews have already begun work on the facility, which is about a mile past APM Terminal on Ezra Trice Boulevard. Construction of the facility will result in 322 direct jobs and 362 indirect, or induced jobs. The facility will result in $42.5 million in local purchases, $1.9 million in state and local taxes, as well as $21.1 million in personal earnings and local consumption, according to a Port statement.

In addition, Adams said the facility could attract distribution and manufacturing centers, as that type of industry tends to cluster around similar facilities.

While the Port currently has a deal in place with CN, Lyons said they would be in contact with the other four railway companies that serve Mobile, including: Norfolk Southern, CSX, Kansas City Southern and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.