An $11.3 million rail terminal and industrial park is coming to a site of more than 200 acres near Port Allen and immediately south of the old Mississippi River bridge, officials announced Friday.
Texas-based USA Rail Terminals said its project will create 43 direct jobs in the area.
Baton Rouge Area Chamber officials said those jobs will average annual wages of more than $80,000. They said the project at 1255 Corn Maize Lane should be completed in about 18 months.
The facility will handle unit train shipments as well as single-car loads, officials said, and more than 1,200 rail cars can be parked on the property at one time.
The same company announced plans 11 months ago to open a major rail terminal near the West Texas town of Sweetwater.
“A rail terminal of this magnitude will be a huge asset to the Baton Rouge area,” said Adam Knapp, BRAC’s president and chief executive officer.
Knapp said USA Rail is creating infrastructure with the flexibility to accommodate all types of rail cargo. “This is a double win for the region as it represents new job creation, and a facility that will spur further economic development.”
“Our decision to come to this area was based on our appreciation of the unique business environment and the people that live here,” said Steve Roth, executive vice president of USA Rail Terminals. “We look forward to serving the surrounding industry and its transportation needs.”
“Rail is an important economic development component and we are excited that a rail terminal will be an enhancement in our parish’s tool kit,” said Kathy Stuart, executive director of the West Baton Rouge Chamber. “This is a project we have been involved with from the very beginning and an important win not just for our parish but for the whole region, too.”
Increased demand for rail service has been noted in Port Allen for more than a year.
Commissioners for the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, located in Port Allen just south of the new Mississippi River bridge, voted last month to move forward with a $19.6 million rail expansion project. That project is expected to take about 18 months for completion.
The vote occurred after Union Pacific Railroad agreed to spend $7 million on longer receiving tracks and power switches needed to accommodate unit trains of as many as 100 cars at the port.
Commissioners hope to use a mix of port and state funds to build an adjacent chambering yard for $12.6 million. That yard would be used for rail cars waiting to be loaded or unloaded by port tenants.
Port tenants Drax Biomass International Inc. and Louis Dreyfus Commodities asked for expansion of rail facilities more than a year ago.
Drax officials said they need more rail in order to handle a steady stream of wood pellets manufactured at plants in north Louisiana and Mississippi. The pellets will be shipped to the United Kingdom for use as fuel for power plants.
Later this month, Drax expects to begin receiving its first 45-car train loads of pellets. Company officials would prefer to receive 80-car unit trains, but the port’s existing receiving track can’t handle that volume.
Dreyfus officials told port officials they need increased rail infrastructure for rising volumes of agricultural commodities that the firm ships from the port.