Southport Auto Terminal Construction Management

The new Southport Auto Terminal at PhilaPort more than doubles the facility’s automobile throughput capacity, making the port the preeminent distribution point for cars and other roll-on/roll-off cargoes on the East Coast. The terminal’s 108,000-square-foot vehicle processing center can handle more than 1,000 cars daily, preparing them for distribution to dealers across the country. The entire 155-acre terminal includes 24,000 parking stalls and can accommodate 350,000 cars a year.

Gannett Fleming provided construction management services for site preparation and terminal construction, PhilaPort’s first such project in 45 years, working in close coordination with the designers of record. The terminal is part of a $300 million port capital investment program from the administration of Pennsylvania’s governor. Chartered 300 years ago, PhilaPort is one of the largest and most important centers of maritime industrial commerce in the U.S.

What We Did

The Southport Auto Terminal is located adjacent to Pier 122, on the site of an old naval base. Site preparation included removing buried tanks, foundations, and launch catapults from abandoned seaplane testing grounds. Our firm recommended new building construction instead of the reuse of an existing structure because of environmental, cost, and end-user concerns. To prepare for vertical construction, our team recommended a surcharge load ground improvement system as a cost-effective alternative to the use of deep foundation piles, saving $1 to $2 million in construction costs and reducing construction time. The addition of 400,000 cubic yards of fill raised the site’s elevation by 4.5 feet, making the facility the only one of its kind on the East Coast above the 100-year floodplain.

Because Pier 22 is a dedicated auto berth, the new terminal was built as one continuous facility. The layout allows autos to be driven directly from a shipping vessel to the first point of rest, optimizing operational efficiency. A state-of-the-art body shop features two double prep stations and two joined double paint booths, offering complete auto service capabilities. Two car washes at the processing center can service 200 vehicles an hour. Specially heated floors allow full operations during even the coldest winter months.

Key Features

  • Terminal layout optimizes efficiency by minimizing the distance from ship to automobile parking space.
  • Ground improvement using a surcharge load enabled solid vertical construction and saved $1 to $2 million in construction costs.
  • Fully equipped vehicle processing facility prepares imported autos for distribution to dealers throughout the U.S.

Awards & Recognition

  • Diamond Award, 2021, American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Pennsylvania, Engineering Excellence Awards.
  • Best Mechanical Construction Project, 2020, General Building Contractors Association (GBCA), Construction Excellence Awards.


  • Demolition activities, pile driving, and the construction of stormwater outfalls and sea walls were completed in accordance with environmental requirements to protect the Delaware River.
  • Recycled aggregate materials were used for the parking areas, site asphalt, and foundation systems to reduce environmental impacts.
  • Materials removed from the site after demolition were recycled, reducing waste.
  • More than 100% increase in automobile throughput capacity.
  • Ability to fully process 1,000 imported cars every day.
  • Safe and secure accommodation for 350,000 vehicles annually.
  • Only East Coast port auto terminal above the 100-year floodplain.


Commonwealth of Pennsylvania


Philadelphia, Pa.


Construction Management Services

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