BR port plans to upgrade, add rail lines

A low bid of $5.98 million by J.B. James Construction Co. LLC, of Baton Rouge, is recommended for approval Thursday by the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission for onsite rail construction and replacement projects.

The commission’s executive, engineering and finance committees made the recommendation this week. The project calls for replacement of more than 5,000 linear feet of rail and the addition of nearly 5,000 linear feet of new rail to meet expanding needs of tenants at the port facility in Port Allen.

All of the work is to be done onsite, Executive Director Jay Hardman said after the committee meetings Thursday. The project is not expected to affect highway and street traffic in the area surrounding the port.

If the full commission agrees with the committees’ recommendation, J.B. James Construction will have 210 days to complete the project, said Cortney White, the port’s engineering and security director.

All new rail segments and all existing segments to be replaced must weigh at least 115 pounds. That is approximately 40 percent more than the 80-pound and 90-pound segments currently at the port.

Hardman said the lighter rail is becoming obsolete because of heavier rail cars increasingly used to transport supplies and products in and out of the port.

Because of anticipated increases in port supply and product volume, additional rail lines likely will be needed in about two years, Hardman said.

Raymond Loup, chairman of the engineering/finance committee, asked that traffic studies be performed in advance of that impending project, which would add about two miles of rail lines at the port.

Loup said he wants those studies to focus on highways and streets both north and south of the port.

Those studies are necessary, Loup said, to show “how it’s going to affect the people.”

Loup said that he also wants estimates on how long it will take those additional trains to pass through Port Allen.