The expansion of the Union Pacific Main Line, which began in late November should be completed by March 1, 2018, Director of Governmental Affairs and Outreach for the Port of Greater Baton Rouge Robert Marionneaux said.
The Port of Greater Baton Rouge is hoping the expansion will help cut down on the number of trains coming and going, Marionneaux said. However, the city was strictly opposed to the railroad expansion just south of Avenue G, Adrian Genre, the city’s chief administrative officer said.
“We’re hoping only positive and no negative effects,” Marionneaux said. “But we do realize we will still have to cross Mahaffey Drive.”
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Hwy. and Avenue G is the most congested intersection in the city, and quite possibly the parish Genre said. The city raised concerns and opposition but ultimately Union Pacific has the right of way Genre said.
Union Pacific and other stakeholders assured city officials that the main use of the rail spur will be at off-peak hours to have as little of an impact on residents and traffic as possible.
“We are certainly going to push them and hold them to that commitment,” Genre said.
The expansion of the track will allow Drax Biomass International Inc. to begin receiving 80-car trains filled with wood pellets each week. Existing port tracks cannot support 80-car trains, which forces Drax to receive shipments in two 45-car trains each week.
The expansion will benefit a number of customers who will have access to it, not just the port, Marionneaux said.
The projects have been under plans for three years after the $19.6 million expansions were approved by the Port of Greater Baton Rouge’s Board of Commissioners in January of 2015.
The expansions are a combined effort of the Union Pacific Railroad, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and the Port of Greater Baton Rouge.