Louisiana’s ongoing industrial renaissance is driving an expansion of railroad infrastructure, opening up new opportunities for the state’s skilled workforce to play a vital role helping Louisiana’s goods and commerce reach national and global markets efficiently.
Leading the way in that expansion is Union Pacific Railroad, the nation’s largest rail carrier, which in March announced it will complete $87 million in new Louisiana rail improvements this year, capping a more than half-billion-dollar investment inside the state.
Since 2012, Louisiana has attracted company expansion announcements totaling more than $178 billion in capital investment and associated with over 115,000 permanent new jobs. More than $85 billion of that capital investment is completed or underway, with the remainder in financing, engineering and permitting phases.
Union Pacific is upgrading many of its facilities throughout the state to accommodate this growth, particularly in the plastics and chemical sectors, says Drew Tessier, Union Pacific’s director of public affairs. “Union Pacific is committed to our business-planning process, understanding our customers’ business needs and ensuring that we have the resources available to provide great service,” Tessier says. “We developed these infrastructure investments in response to increasing business demand for rail transportation in this part of the Union Pacific network, and they will allow our customers more flexibility and opportunities to continue to grow.”
This year, Union Pacific expects to complete significant upgrades as part of a $20 million rail project at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, where major tenants such as Louis Dreyfus Commodities and Drax Biomass will be able to ship goods via 80-car trains, an increase from the previous port capacity of 45-car trains.
“We are especially excited about our work and investment at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge,” says Tessier. “These improvements will help the port continue to compete in the global market as it facilitates international trade.”
Elsewhere in the state, along the Union Pacific rail line between Alexandria and Shreveport, the company will replace nearly 150,000 railroad ties and install more than 56,000 tons of rock ballast — part of a $16 million project.
Along the Mississippi River, Union Pacific will replace over 82,000 railroad ties and install nearly 40,000 tons of rock ballast as part of a $12 million project from Luling to Livonia. An additional $18 million spent by the company this year will improve railroad bridges in Louisiana. Union Pacific’s Louisiana investments are privately funded and do not include taxpayer funds.
Tessier says a key to Union Pacific accomplishing its goals and those of its customers in the state is a highly skilled workforce, which is why the company is taking steps to grow the size of its Louisiana team as the demand for freight rail grows.
“We are proud to provide opportunities for workers to develop skills and be a part of helping Louisiana’s economy grow and develop,” Tessier says.
In addition to workforce development and enhancing service to existing customers, Union Pacific is active in identifying and supporting new business development across the state. To help businesses and industries recognize and take advantage of the efficiencies and capacity of freight rail, the company has launched its “Rail Within Reach” campaign.
Union Pacific can provide tools, resources and materials to assist economic development organizations, landowners and developers in attracting rail clients to their communities and properties. The company also helps potential rail customers or site selectors quickly and easily find a rail-served site or facility.
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