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August 8, 2022 12:19 PM, EDT

New Louisiana Port Project Looks to Expand Intermodal to DFW Area

Oil tanker sailing from Plaquemines PortPlaquemines Port provides water access to 33 states. (Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District)

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Developers and port officials in Dallas County, Texas, are talking with leaders building the new Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District/Louisiana Gateway Project to expand the reach of the budding Gulf of Mexico facility.

Plaquemines Port Executive Director Sandy Sanders told Transport Topics he believes a direct rail line between the locations would benefit both facilities as industry leaders look to enlarge the number of entry points for freight and find ways to get cargo to Midwest states and help unclog the still-jammed supply chain. Sanders is hopeful that a rail link can be developed to support intermodal container moves between the Plaquemines Port and Dallas utilizing the Union Pacific and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads.



The port hopes to convince the railroads that the new terminal will attract sufficient rail capacity to make the service profitable for them.

Plaquemines Port Executive Director Sandy Sanders

"We want to be a quick, efficient, transload port, Executive Director Sandy Sanderson says. (Plaquemines Port)

“We’ve been working with Dallas County officials, and the whole idea is to transform this to a value-added base where they are getting their goods from our port and as a value-added they will be exporting from their area back to the port,” Sanders said. “So, it will be a very large push-pull operation.”

Sanders said the Plaquemines Port group is talking to a rail partner and then beginning to build the infrastructure to kick-start the project, which he estimates will take at least five years. He is optimistic it will move forward, especially as his facility continues to acquire Louisiana real estate, find tenants and undertake construction.

“We don’t want to be all things to everybody with warehousing and these other items on the port,” Sanders said. “We need to do what we do best, get the ships in, get the boxes off the ship, get it on a train and get it out of there. We want to be a quick, efficient, transload port.”

Plaquemines Port logo

The Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District sits on 5,500 acres, 20 miles south of the Port of New Orleans and 50 nautical miles from the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to the Dallas rail link, plans are being developed to ship cargo up the Mississippi River on specially designed vessels capable of carrying 1,800 to 2,300 containers to Midwest and Southern cities, close to trucking terminals and interstate highways and rail corridors.

Sanders believes there is an opportunity for Plaquemines to siphon off some West Coast business and move that cargo to Dallas, freeing up space in the supply chain.

“They’re being serviced by Los Angeles and Long Beach, like so many Midwest and Southern cities are,” Sanders said. “We think a direct rail is the way to go.”

Nate Graglia

Graglia

Nate Graglia, executive vice president at Fort Worth-based Wallport Cos., believes a direct rail line between Plaquemines Port and Dallas will greatly benefit the trucking industry.

“What my organization is trying to do is acquire land to direct intermodal trucking companies to come to the inland port,” he said. “We have to bring the intermodal and trucking infrastructure closer together. We have to have trucking to make this successful.”

Graglia said a six-lane highway under construction in south Dallas called Loop 9 should significantly improve traffic and increase economic development in the traditionally underdeveloped region of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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It is about 370 miles in a straight line from the Plaquemines Port to the intermodal and logistics district of south Dallas. That includes 7,500 acres of land and five separate municipalities. According to its website, the Dallas County Inland Port boasts:

• Direct access to North/South interstates I-35 and I-45 and the East/West I-20, connecting the Dallas-Fort Worth area by truck with all the major North American markets within 48 hours.

• The confluence of three Class I railroad networks — Union Pacific, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and Kansas City Southern. In the case of KCS, that smaller carrier takes on even larger importance as its merger with Canadian Pacific could be approved by early next year. KCS also is the only Class I carrier with rail lines deep into Mexico.

• Intermodal service from Union Pacific Dallas Intermodal Terminal to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

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Seven counties in the DFW area make up what is called Foreign Trade Zone 39, which provides significant savings on duties and other fees importing and exporting goods.

The inland port already has secured agreements with tenants including Amazon, Home Depot, L’Oreal and National Tire & Battery.

Louisiana officials say their port will be fully operational on a small scale by 2024, and plans are in the works to rapidly expand it from 2033-35 to where it can be competitive with some of the larger port complexes, including Los Angeles, Long Beach and Houston.

“We need to build more resiliency into the supply chain,” Sanders said, “and this is a way to do it.”