August 25, 2023

New Orleans Public Belt Railroad completes France Road rail yard expansion


The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB) has completed the expansion of the France Road rail yard, which the railroad says will increase throughput in the New Orleans rail gateway.

The rail yard will expand NOPB’s capacity to switch, interchange and store rail cars. The rail yard created storage space for 220 more rail cars. 

NOPB is a Class III switching railway serving the Port of New Orleans. The railway connects with all six Class I railroads. 

“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,” NOPB General Manager Tomeka Watson Bryant said in a Wednesday news release. “As we look to the future, we will continue to provide safe, efficient, and environmentally sustainable rail service.”

The expansion of the France Road rail yard was part of a wider $18.2 million plan to improve fluidity and capacity. Other initiatives included new tracks and storage for 205 cars at the Kingfish yard in Elmwood, Louisiana, and the expansion of the Clairborne yard near the New Orleans neighborhood of St. Claude. The initiative at the Kingfish yard was completed in 2020, and the Clairborne yard expansion is slated for completion in June 2024. 

Federal funding contributed to the project. NOPB had received a $7.29 million CRISI grant in 2020 to help fund additional rail yard space and deploy automated switching technology. The CRISI grant program, which stands for consolidated rail infrastructure and safety improvements, is administered by the Federal Railroad Administration. 

That grant funding enabled NOPB to conduct improvements that have led to decreased emissions, reduced locomotive engine idle and increased safety by upgrading from manual to solar-powered switches along strategic points in the network, according to NOPB.

“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. 

NOPB facilities include the Cotton Warehouse yard, which is NOPB’s main classification yard located in Uptown New Orleans, two downtown yards — the Clairborne and France yards — and four storage yards.

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