Railroad presents Expansion Plans to Service Plaquemines PortOct 21st, 2013 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: news
As work continues to expand the Plaquemines Port, plans to extend and ultimately relocate the New Orleans and Gulf Coast Railway (NOGCR) were presented to the West Bank Rail Transportation Authority (WBRTA) at a special meeting last week.
The extended rail line will service the Plaquemines Port and associated industry along the Mississippi River. Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District Executive Director Manard J. “Sandy” Sanders and railroad President Robert L. “Bob” Bach made the presentation to WBRTA board members, Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, Jefferson Parish President John Young and Gretna Mayor Belinda Constant. The economic benefits, as well as the concerns of added rail traffic, were addressed.
Bach outlined three phases of expansion of the rail, which currently ends at the CHS Grain Terminal at Alliance. First up is a 2.7 mile extension to service the Ram Terminal coal facility and the Nola Terminals tank yard both currently under construction near Myrtle Grove. The second phase would extend the rail line 3 miles to the property currently under negotiation to be acquired by the Plaquemines Port; it would also reach Kinder-Morgan’s IMT coal terminal.
“Rail is key to the success of our expansion plans for the Plaquemines Port,” said Sanders. “We are fortunate to have a willing partner in the NOGCR.”
Bach said NOGCR plans to underwrite the cost of the railway extensions through existing revenues.
The expansion plans and increased rail traffic drew concerns from Young and Constant. To the Jefferson Parish officials, more business translates into longer and more frequent trains along the rail. The line parallels the Belle Chasse Hwy corridor and crosses all the highway intersections, as well as runs through downtown Gretna.
“We’re all for economic growth but we can’t allow this to paralyze the Westbank, particularly Gretna,” said Young.
Bach explained that ultimately, the rail line would be relocated to follow the new Peters Road Bypass corridor, which could eventually result in the railway being removed from Gretna, all the way to the Chevron facility in Belle Chasse.
“We service no customers along that portion of the rail and I could see it being removed,” he said.
Nungesser told the group he was in full support of moving as quickly as possible to complete not just the rail extensions, but also completion of the Peters Road Bypass and the relocation of the rail to that corridor.
“This is important to the entire Westbank,” Nungesser said. “It’s key to getting oil field service companies back along Peter’s Road and helping the entire Westbank of Jefferson. They will be working logistics out of Venice to service the eastern Gulf (oilfields) but their facilities will be along Engineers Road and Peter’s Road.”
From a financial standpoint, Bach said the short extensions have to be done first so that increased revenue from the added business can be used to fund the $300 million re-location project.
Phase 1 of the planned extension is in the stage of obtaining right-of-ways and could be completed in a matter of months once construction begins. An environmental study on the relocation project has been authorized by the Regional Planning Commission with federal funding being arranged and is expected to take 12-18 months. Bach said the extension projects and the environmental study would be underway simultaneously to have the ultimate relocation goal come to fruition as soon as possible.
Sanders and Bach said they recognize the need to balance economic growth, which will brings jobs and tax revenues, with the quality of life issues residents are concerned about with increased rail traffic.