New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB) has enlarged the France Road Rail Yard, boosting its capacity to switch, interchange and store railcars. The Class III can now accommodate an additional 220 storage cars.
The France Road Rail Yard expansion is part of the $18.2 million New Orleans Gateway Rail Fluidity and Capacity Improvements Project, according to NOPB, which serves the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) and local industries and connects directly with all six Class I railroads. The railroad also has a main classification yard, Cotton Warehouse Yard, that is located in uptown New Orleans; an additional yard, Claiborne, that serves downtown customers; and four storage yards, Pauline, Race St., East Bridge, and South. The newly constructed France yard is located along the Industrial Canal in New Orleans.
NOPB on Aug. 23 reported that through the New Orleans Gateway Rail Fluidity and Capacity Improvements Project, it 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, which is expected to be finished in June 2024.
“Increasing our storage capacity through the New Orleans freight gateway serves the dual benefit of relieving rail congestion and offering customers, railroad partners and Port NOLA a significant competitive edge,” said Tomeka Watson Bryant, who in 2022 took over as NOPB General Manager, becoming the first African American woman to lead a U.S. short line, and received a Women in Rail award from Railway Age. “As we look to the future, we will continue to provide safe, efficient and environmentally sustainable rail service.”
“The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is proud to support the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad and this rail yard expansion project, which will help get goods where they need to be quickly and safely,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said.
FRA in 2020 awarded $7.29 million to NOPB as part of the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant program to help fund the additional rail yard space as well as the deployment of automated switching technology. The work, NOPB said, has “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 NOPB at France Yard ensures customers can deliver materials efficiently by rail for transloading to export markets for years to come,” said David Kearney, President of The Kearney Companies, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Precision Terminal Logistics, LLC. “This added capacity will also help support high-volume, local customers that require safety stock to ensure 24/7 delivery without interruption. As a longtime tenant of Port NOLA 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.”
According to NOPB, since its strategic alignment with Port NOLA in 2018, switching revenues have increased more than 20%, and along with overall safety and efficiency improvements, NOPB’s operating income has increased nearly 300%.
Port NOLA is also served by New Orleans & Gulf Coast Railway, Railway Age’s 2016 Short Line of the Year.