Port of South Louisiana supports trio of construction projects

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 4, 2022

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RESERVE — If the 54 winding miles of lower Mississippi River are the heartbeat of the Port of South Louisiana, then it could be argued the surrounding infrastructure – both near and far – represents the lifeblood of daily operations at one of the largest tonnage ports in the Western Hemisphere.

Steadfast in staying several steps ahead of the needs of its clientele and the rapid changes in the global marketplace, the Port of South Louisiana has reinforced its internal infrastructure through a variety of large-scale construction projects.

The six-track railyard at SoLaPort. The $19.5 million finger pier at Globalplex that allowed for simultaneous ship-to-barge and truck-to-barge operations. The lengthening of the runway at the Port of South Louisiana Executive Airport, along with renovations to the terminal and several hangars.

The list goes on and on.

But just a vital as modern infrastructure is within the footprint of the Port District, the various pathways that support the intermodal transportation of raw materials into the Port and refined/finished exports out of the Port are equipped to handle the demands of companies and civilians, alike, are just as critical, if not more essential. Because of that, Port of South Louisiana officials have endorsed and continue to support a trio of infrastructure improvements within each of the three parishes that comprise the River Region.

“When we look at projects that may not be within the fence lines of the Port Terminal, at the end of the day, truck movements, rail movements, what have you, are all connected to fulfilling our mission as a center for commerce,” Port of South Louisiana CEO Paul Matthews said. “The essence of a Port is moving things through the community.

“Anything that improves efficiency of transit – be it moving products or assisting people in getting where they need to be safely and efficiently – is something that’s easy to stand behind from our perspective.”

The first infrastructure project that the Port views as a regional asset is the expansion of La. Hwy 3127 in St. James Parish from a two-lane road to a four-lane road. The project was completed in 2021, and state and local officials attended a “virtual ribbon cutting” that punctuated the 2.5-mile long widening of LA 3127 near the future site of the Formosa Plastics Group manufacturing plant in northwest St. James Parish. The project has already helped ease traffic congestion along that portion of the highway and serves as a blueprint as to what further construction could do for commerce in the region.

In St. John The Baptist Parish, the Port has put its full backing behind the state funding a series of on-ramp/off-ramp exit improvements and additions along Interstate 10, specifically the construction of a new exit for a more direct connection to the Port of South Louisiana Executive Airport and the Port’s Globalplex Intermodal Terminal. Last summer, leadership in St. John Parish received authorization to commence the conceptual design portion of the project, clearly outlining how these proposed infrastructure improvements will benefit the natural environment and driver safety, all while attracting more visitors and new businesses to spark economic growth.

“Building on research into best practices from other parishes and communities around the country, improvements to the I-10 gateway corridors can help capitalize on the Parish’s strategic location between New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Hammond,” St. John Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said. “With thousands of motorists passing through each day, the project aims to grow business and tax dollars into the community.”

The final of the three infrastructure projects –a proposed Interstate 310 flyover ramp that would ease stress along U.S. Highway 90 in St. Charles Parish– has been discussed for three years shy of a decade but finally seems on the verge of coming to fruition, albeit in an amended fashion than original designs. Instead of a flyover ramp, new plans call for additional lanes to the existing northbound 1-310 on-ramp while also adding a dual on-ramp from East Hwy 90, according to Samantha de Castro, the St. Charles Parish director of communications.

“Currently, this intersection regularly sees congestion from the southbound off ramp all the way to Hahnville High School,” de Castro wrote back to an email inquiry. “This is a major thoroughfare for our residents and commerce and will bring much relief to this area.”

Parish officials expect the estimated $10 million project to go to bid later this spring with construction scheduled to begin in 2025.

“There are ways for us (the Port and the surrounding communities) to work together,” Matthews said, “because the people who work in the Port District also live in the local River Region community. We should make sure that every aspect of the infrastructure that supports various forms of transportation gets our support and benefits from the influence that the Port carries.”