Port of Victoria: CARES Act Grant Spurs Rail Growth

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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The Port of Victoria in Southeast Texas, owned and operated by the Victoria County Navigation District, is the recipient of a $6 million CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act Grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) for a proposed Rail Expansion Project.

The Rail Expansion Project consists of a 1.9-mile rail loop and 2,000-foot ladder track at the Port’s North Industrial Site, which is serviced by Union Pacific and BNSF. It will connect three tracts of available land totaling 115 acres, and provide current industrial tenants with improved rail access. It will also allow the Port to accommodate delivery of 100-plus-railcar trains with 100+ railcars and provide additional capacity for railcar storage. The requires a 50% ($3 million) match from the Port.

New rail lines included in the Rail Expansion Project are marked in red. The available lease sites are highlighted in green. 

The Port of Victoria was expected to begin the Railway Expansion Project procurement process in February 2021. Construction time is estimated at around nine months and is expected to be finished by year-end 2021.

“The benefits of a project of this magnitude have been discussed for more than a decade, and securing this grant sees that idea come to fruition,” said Navigation District Executive Director Sean Stibich. “This project will build upon the multi-modal commerce that exists at the Port’s complex today, improve opportunities for current tenants, and make the Port more attractive to potential business development partners. This project is a cumulation of a years-long effort by the Port to expand our facilities and infrastructure. The goal of the Port has always been to improve the quality of life and economic opportunities of our citizens by increasing industry and commerce in our region. The Rail Expansion Project will help us meet that goal and give us a competitive advantage in attracting new businesses to our region.

“This project has the potential to create hundreds of high-skilled and high-wage jobs in industrial and transportation related fields, which are more resilient to economic dislocations, such as the coronavirus pandemic. The entire region, especially the low-income Opportunity Zones, will see spin-off benefits in housing and small business opportunities when industry takes advantage of these improvements. The Rail Expansion Project will further fortify our region’s critical infrastructure and existing modes of transportation, strengthening our foundation for economic development and resiliency to natural disasters.”

The largest federal grant the Port has received to date, and the first it has received specifically for economic development purposes, the CARES funding follows a Memorandum of Understanding involving the Port and local government entities. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Tex., 27th District) wrote letters of support, “and when the EDA delayed the grant process, they were quick to make the calls needed to get the ball rolling again,” Port officials noted. “Congressman Cloud’s Office played a crucial role in aiding the Port in the application process, was persistent in breaking through the gridlock, and maintained the momentum in favor of the Port’s receipt of the grant. 

The Victoria County Navigation District was created in 1946 and established the Port of Victoria in 1968 upon completion of the 35-mile Victoria Barge Canal. With more than 2,000 acres available for commercial and industrial development, it is located within a Foreign Trade Zone and a Texas Enterprise Zone, and features access to rail and highway transportation and airport proximity. The canal meets Gulf Intracoastal Waterway navigation parameters. To date, the Port, officials claim, has created more than 500 local jobs and has an estimated annual impact of close to $9.0 billion on the local economy. 

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