Public Belt RR is not for sale, chairman says _lowres

The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad building is seen in Jefferson.

Any "For Sale" sign will have to wait.

KPMG, the Dallas-based consulting firm tasked with evaluating the city's options for what to do with the Public Belt Railroad, is continuing to survey key stakeholders and isn't expected to complete its work until November, New Orleans City Attorney Rebecca Dietz said Thursday at a meeting of the agency's board.

The Public Belt includes 25 miles of track that connect the six major rail lines serving the port and nearby industrial facilities.

Earlier this year, KPMG estimated the railroad’s value at between $61 million and $196 million, not including the Huey P. Long Bridge over the Mississippi River in Jefferson Parish, which the agency also owns.

The railroad’s board reluctantly authorized KPMG to next evaluate different options for the publicly owned and operated railroad: selling it; maintaining the status quo; or signing a long-term public-private partnership with an operator that would invest in the line while the city retains ownership.

Speculation surrounding a potential sale has swirled for more than two years. Previously, Thomas Coleman, the former CEO of International Matex Tank Terminals, announced his interest in buying the railroad. (Coleman is the father of Dathel Georges, who owns The Advocate along with her husband, John Georges.)

In recent months, Mayor Mitch Landrieu — who is a voting member of the Public Belt’s board — has said he’s still interested in the idea of a sale, but it has gained limited traction beyond City Hall.

Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.