Railroad deal signals more growth in St. James

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 22, 2012



ST. JAMES – The west bank of St. James Parish will soon be home to a $40 million railroad support yard as part of a $200 million expansion of the Union Pacific Railroad along the Mississippi River in south Louisiana.

Gov. Bobby Jindal on Tuesday joined Union Pacific officials in Addis to announce the project, which will result in 225 new railroad jobs, 1,500 construction jobs and 502 additional indirect jobs for the state. He said the new railroad jobs would pay an average of $45,000 a year plus benefits.

Jindal said Union Pacific is investing in this expansion to meet current and expected customer demand from the petrochemical plants along the Mississippi River.

“Rail lines are the backbone of the chemical and manufacturing industries in Louisiana,” Jindal said in a statement. “Recent economic development wins, like SNF Polymers (in Plaquemine) and NuStar Energy (in St. James), are creating more demand for Union Pacific in our state.”

The rail support yard in St. James Parish is one of three elements of the expansion project. Union Pacific also plans to add 29 miles of track from Livonia to Addis that will provide dual lines for greater capacity. There will also be increased staging space at the Livonia rail yard.

Union Pacific officials said the support yard in St. James Parish will enable growth for existing and anticipated customers in the St. James and Donaldsonville areas. It will reduce train delays and increase fluidity, as well as enhancing performance.

St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel, who attended the announcement Tuesday, touted the project at the following day’s parish council meeting in Vacherie as “yet another win for the parish.”

“It is going to help the industry on our west bank to move product more efficiently,” Roussel said.

The second rail line between Livonia and Addis is expected to cost $50 million, according to Union Pacific Chairman Jim Young. It will run alongside existing track and should increase the railroad’s capacity and reduce delays. Young said the remainder of the investment will be spent on technology upgrades and further increasing the railroad’s ability to move product through the state.

“We want to do more business here, and we want to be more efficient,” Young said in a statement. “In 33 years I’ve never seen so much opportunity for growth as there is right now in Louisiana.”

The project is expected to be at peak construction in June, and the company expects to complete the railroad expansion by the end of 2012.