Construction of an intermodal rail facility has begun at Port Everglades, which handles almost half of the fresh produce entering Florida by ship.

Crews from Jacksonville-based Florida East Coast Railway are installing tracks and crane pads for the intermodal container transfer facility at the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., port.

Scheduled to open this summer, the $73 million, 43-acre rail operation is to be used to transfer domestic and international shipping containers between ship and rail.

The operation, at the Southport container cargo area, replaces a 12-acre intermodal yard that is several miles from the port, according to a news release.

Port Everglades begins construction on rail facilityWorkers are constructing buildings and the road leading to the facility is ready to be paved, according to the release.

The facility will allow the railroad to assemble 9,000-foot unit trains without blocking city streets.

When finished, cargo can move through the port to and from Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., in two days and to Nashville, Tenn., and Memphis, Tenn., in three days, according to the release.

The railroad’s connections to CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads should also allow rail service to 70% of the U.S. population within four days, according to the release.

Ellen Kennedy, the port’s director of communications, said she couldn’t say how much produce would go through the facility, but the port handles nearly half of the produce entering Florida via ocean shipping.

During fiscal year 2013, the port handled 928,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent units), Kennedy said.

Of those, refrigerated cargos accounted for 134,597 TEUS or 15% of volume, with imports constituting 75% of refrigerated container movement, she said.