Few public investments provide more economic development than a public port. For example, operating as the major grain logistics tenant at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge since 2011, Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) has completed over $200 million in capital spending improvements at its Port Allen Elevator facilities. Currently, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge is overseeing nearly $60 million in rail infrastructure projects that will expand commodity shipments for current and future tenants. In 2018, Union Pacific Railroad completed a $12 million interchange track project expanding potential delivery from 45 railcars to as many as 110 railcars on one train, which is very important for lowering the cost of shipping of soybeans on a per metric ton basis.
To build on this success, the state of Louisiana has dedicated $20 million to extend the tracks further into the LDC Port Allen Elevator facility. For the LDC rail access project, port officials are pursuing a project permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Pending approval of permits, construction is expected to begin later this year and potentially be completed in 2020. Once completed, the rail project should reduce port dwell times and increase volume throughput. For Class I railroads, maintaining track velocity is the key to profitability. The river/export elevator on the Mississippi River handles over 5 million metric tons annually.
During high river stages at the port, barge unloading requires additional equipment operating at a slower rate. Improving the rail option to deliver soybeans via unit trains of 110 or more railcars reduces per metric ton cost, which helps keep transportation costs lower and/or increases the Class I railroad’s profitability. Increased profitability increases the odds of more infrastructure and maintenance funding in the future.
“West Baton Rouge Parish is fortunate to have a port of such caliber in our backyard, and one that has continually proven to be an unwavering economic development partner,” said Executive Director Jamie Hanks of the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce. “This commendable announcement will continue to grow the Port of Greater Baton Rouge’s capabilities, benefitting our parish and region.”
“The region’s port complex is a critical part of driving the Baton Rouge area’s economy, and investments in expanding its rail infrastructure will drive future growth,” said President and CEO Adam Knapp of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.