Rail a critical link as planners honor Port NOLA’s strategic vision

Written by Stuart Chirls, Senior Editor
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New Orleans Public Belt photo

With rail as a central piece, the Port of New Orleans saw its development plans honored as it transforms the busiest U.S. Gulf maritime gateway.

Port NOLA received the Plan Excellence Award from the American Planning Association (APA) Louisiana Chapter Oct. 4, 2018, for Port NOLA Forward, its encompassing Strategic Master Plan.

“The Port’s Master Plan was awarded the Excellence Award for marrying together robust and broad outreach with sophisticated technical analyses, resulting in a clear plan for the future with detailed implementation strategies,” said Derek Chisholm, APA Louisiana President.

The Plan presents a holistic approach to growing the maritime and cruise industries, and to consider the supply chain as a whole by harnessing multimodal assets on and off Port property, along the Mississippi River and inland waterway system, on the port-owned New Orleans Public Belt Railroad and six-carrier Class 1 rail network, and via interstate highways.

“Our role as a port is to plan, build, support and maintain the infrastructure necessary to grow jobs and economic opportunity for the region, and it is validating to be recognized by the American Planning Association Louisiana Chapter for our efforts,” said Brandy D. Christian, Port of New Orleans President and Chief Executive. “From the beginning, the process was designed to incorporate the interests of our diverse stakeholder groups. We appreciate the valuable feedback we received from more than 2,500 individuals who informed the Strategic Master Plan during its development.”

On October 8 the hub handled its largest-ever container ship, the 9,500-TEU CMA CGM Pusan C.

The plan would increase Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal Complex annual capacity from the current 840,000 TEUs to 1.5 million TEUs by upgrading to larger cranes and maximizing space in the existing yards, and optimizing the Cotton Warehouse Yard for intermodal and rail shuttle services for national freight.

The Public Belt’s reach would be improved Railroad to connect with inland freight-based industries, while the Port partners with Class 1 railroads to improve automation, fluidity, and services. The short line also plans investment to upgrade its locomotive fleet to reduce emissions.

In August the port opened RailNOLA.com, the NOPB’s new website. The short line is in the process of implementing the Urban Rail Initiative, “a companywide program that addresses infrastructure improvements, operations practices and internal and external outreach. The purpose of the initiative is to improve community relations while increasing fluidity across the network.”

The Belt has installed air hoses to help ease travel delays at key grade crossings and is researching grant opportunities to address other bottlenecks.

View the Strategic Master Plan here (pdf).

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