“The Last Mile” is a popular title for movies and books, and a common metaphor for what people walk when they reach the end of the line.
In the case of the Port of Charleston, however, it is also the literal bridge from the port to the Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. Terminal, a facility that, upon its completion—which is scheduled for 2021—will increase the amount of cargo the port can handle by 50 percent.
“You know, it's just a common term regardless of the distance of the road,” Barbara Melvin, chief operating officer of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) told the Palmetto Business Daily in a phone interview. “It's really a common term just to explain the final connection between the inland infrastructure and the marine terminal. So it's really what we consider to be the critical piece that allows for liquidity, or cargo in and out of the terminal, and it typically means a road rather than a rail connection.”
With the exponential growth of the port—which is also currently being deepened to allow access to larger ships—Charleston and surrounding cities and suburbs are also experiencing growth. One challenge is to ensure that such growth does not negatively affect people who already live there. That is one reason “the last mile” will mostly be an elevated roadway.
“You want to make sure that there are no adverse impacts,” Melvin said. “One of the key points that is very unique and beneficial about this is that it segregates the neighborhood traffic from our freight traffic and makes sure that our freight traffic has one way to get to the interstate and cannot in anyway meander through neighborhoods.
“That’s one thing that we're very proud of, it is definitely a win for the communities and for freight traffic because it's easier for trucks and they do not intermingle in that last bit of distance with cars,” Melvin said.
The $220 million connector road is being funded jointly by the South Carolina Dept. of Transportation and SCPA.