Railroad upgrades, maintenance at Port Bienville

Published 11:30 am Saturday, July 17, 2021

Special to the Item

KILN, MISS. – The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission recently awarded a nearly $1 million contract for upgrades and life cycle maintenance of railroad track at Port Bienville Industrial Park.

Trac-Work, Inc., of Haltom City, Texas, was the lowest and best bidder of five responding companies. The $977,701 project includes upgrading 5,750 feet of track, replacing 1,350 feet of track, and various rail, rock and timber crosstie maintenance.

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“The upgrades included in this project allow Port Bienville Railroad to better serve existing tenants and to compete with regional facilities to attract new business,” said Director Shane LaFontaine. “When the project is complete, almost all of the rail in the park will be rated to carry fully-loaded railcars up to 286,000 pounds.”

During the upgrade phase of the project, crews will replace 5,750 feet of track in the storage yard with 115-pound rail. Nationwide, 115-pound rail is the industry standard and capable of supporting heavy railcars. The existing 85- and 90-pound rail has outlived its service life with several sections of rail stamped with early 1900s manufacture date.

Elsewhere in the industrial park, 1,350 feet of existing 115-pound rail will be replaced. The section of track crosses Port and Harbor Drive and temporary road closures will be necessary. A detour will be in place using South Port Bienville Road.

The project also includes life cycle maintenance throughout the industrial park. Over 1,200 crossties will be replaced, nearly 700 tons of ballast will be replaced and nearly 8,000 feet of track will be resurfaced and tamped.

“Our maintenance program is proactive and continually monitoring rail, rock and crosstie conditions,” LaFontaine said. “It has led to greater efficiency by keeping more track in service for a longer time.”

The project is funded in part by a $400,000 multi-modal grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The existing rail will be scrapped and recycled, which will generate about $40,000 in savings.

Connecting the Port Bienville to CSX, Port Bienville Railroad boasts 17 miles of track and processes over 8,000 loaded railcars a year. The port is home to 16 tenants employing nearly 700 people and generates nearly $10 million in ad valorem revenue for the county each year.