Updated 2:45 p.m. Jan. 20: This story has been updated with new comments from Sen. Todd Pillion.
State legislators from Southwest Virginia are asking for tens of millions of dollars in state funding to build an inland port in their region.
State Sen. Todd Pillion, R-Washington County, is seeking $65 million through two budget amendments, one that asks for $10 million for site acquisition, planning, design and improvements, and another requesting $55 million to build the port.
On the House side, Del. William Wampler Jr., R-Washington County, is asking for $10 million for site acquisition and planning, while Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Washington County, wants $55 million to buy land and build a port.
“We have a clear opportunity to deliver a generational project that will bring significant economic and infrastructure benefits to Southwest Virginia and the entire Commonwealth,” Pillion said in a statement Friday. “I filed two budget amendments offering different pathways to development of an inland port to show that we are serious about this project and committed to doing it the right way in consultation with the Virginia Port Authority, VEDP, and other partners.
“It is a top priority for me that we come out of this session with a substantive commitment from the General Assembly and administration that builds on the findings of the 2022 feasibility study and allows us to move forward.”
At the urging of Pillion and Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford County, the General Assembly last session allocated $200,000 to study whether two specific parts of the state would be suitable sites for an inland port: the Mount Rogers Planning District, which stretches from Wytheville to Bristol, or the region around Lynchburg that’s included in the Central Virginia Planning District.
The study, which was released early this month, found that the Mount Rogers area “meets enough market-driven and physical conditions to warrant additional assessment” and that the Lynchburg region doesn’t have enough demand to justify a port.
At the time, Pillion pledged that he would introduce “a substantial budget amendment to build on the findings of this report and support the siting and development of an inland port in the region.”
Inland ports are terminals where cargo coming to or from coastal ports is transferred between trains and trucks. They can help reduce congestion at coastal ports and cut shipping costs for customers by taking trucks off the road.
The state currently operates an inland port near Front Royal, in Warren County. It has been in operation since 1989.