The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB) celebrated the completion of an expansion project that will further increase throughput in the New Orleans rail gateway. Located along the Industrial Canal in New Orleans, the newly constructed France Road Railyard will improve efficiencies and increase NOPB’s capacity to switch, interchange and store rail cars, now accommodating an additional 220 storage cars.
“Increasing our storage capacity through the New Orleans freight gateway serves the dual benefit of relieving rail congestion and offering customers, railroad partners and the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) a significant competitive edge,” said NOPB General Manager Tomeka Watson Bryant. “As we look to the future, we will continue to provide safe, efficient, and environmentally sustainable rail service.”
The France Road Railyard construction is part of the $18.2 million New Orleans Gateway Rail Fluidity and Capacity Improvements Project. Through this project, the NOPB also completed five new tracks and additional storage for 205 cars at the Kingfish Yard in Elmwood in 2020, and is expanding the Claiborne Yard near the St. Claude area, projected to be finished in June 2024.
Since the strategic alignment of the Port and NOPB in 2018, switching revenues have increased over 20%. Along with overall safety and efficiency improvements, the NOPB’s operating income has increased nearly 300%. Additionally, recent similar capital storage projects have already increased storage revenues by over $3 million annually.
“Improving Louisiana’s railroad infrastructure helps build Louisiana’s economy for 2050,” said U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, (R-La). “The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad expansion project helps get Louisiana’s economy where it needs to be and in turn strengthens our businesses and communities.”
“Louisiana is fortunate to be a hub for global commerce. We can move goods by the Mississippi River, rail, and road – and our ports are at the epicenter of these logistics and our regional economy. The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad is a major artery for the Port of New Orleans, and this completed project and resulting additional capacity will pay dividends for the entire port ecosystem,” said U.S. Congressman Garret Graves, (R-La).
“The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad is a key connector to six class I railroads. I was proud to help craft the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that dramatically increased funding for the CRISI Program and assisted the NOPB in bringing these resources home. Enlarging their rail yard will mean more jobs for the region. Wins from grant programs like CRISI demonstrate my commitment to ensuring that the region receives all possible resources to grow and thrive,” said U.S. Congressman Troy A. Carter, Sr. (D-La).
"The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is proud to support the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad and this railyard expansion project, which will help get goods where they need to be quickly and safely. These federal investments will increase capacity while reducing emissions, benefiting local economies and communities," said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. "Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and President Biden's Investing in America agenda, FRA will announce even more projects and funding opportunities this year, positioning rail as a central player in our transportation and economic future."
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $7.29 million to NOPB in 2020 as part of the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant to help fund the additional railyard space as well as the deployment of automated switching technology. The improvements have already led to decreased emissions, reduced locomotive engine idle and improvements in safety by upgrading from manual to solar powered switches along strategic points in the network.
“This investment in increased track capacity for the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad at France Yard ensures customers can deliver materials efficiently by rail for trans-loading to export markets for years to come. This added capacity will also help support high volume, local customers that require safety stock to ensure 24/7 delivery without interruption," said David Kearney, President of The Kearney Companies, Inc. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Precision Terminal Logistics, LLC). “As a longtime tenant of the Port of New Orleans and a partner with NOPB, we are encouraged by this expansion, and in turn, The Kearney Companies is simultaneously investing in our own capacity at the France Road Terminal to support the growth and product movement through the Port NOLA Gateway.”
NOPB is a Class III railroad on the nation’s fourth-largest rail gateway that serves the Port of New Orleans, industries and connects directly with six class I railroads. These railroads comprise a 132,000-plus mile network of track that tie Port NOLA and the supply chain directly to every U.S. market and Canada.
NOPB’s main classification yard, Cotton Warehouse Yard, is located in Uptown New Orleans near the corporate headquarters. Two additional yards, Claiborne and France yards, serve Downtown customers. The NOPB system also includes four storage yards: Pauline, Race St., East Bridge, and South yards.