HCPHC Announces Release of Record of Decision and Final EIS for Port Bienville Railroad Project
May 14, 2020
Hancock County, MS (May 14, 2020) –
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently signed the combined Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and the Record of Decision (ROD) for The Port Bienville Railroad Project.
The Port Bienville Railroad Project proposes a new freight rail line that would provide a direct connection between Port Bienville Railroad (PBVR) and the Norfolk Southern (NS) Class I rail line, north of The John C. Stennis Space Center (SCC).
The recently signed FEIS-ROD is a federal document that describes the project, explains the rationale for the project decision, collects and responds to public comments regarding the project, and enables the project to move forward. The FRA works closely with numerous agencies to analyze the environmental impacts of projects prior to approval, including agencies such as The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
“The signing of the FEIS-ROD denotes the end of the environmental impact study and the beginning of our ability to move forward with the rail project” said Bill Cork, CEO of Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, which owns and operates the Port Bienville Railroad (PBVR) within the Port Bienville Industrial Park. “Thank you to MDOT, FRA, and all the consultants who completed this monumental task”.
Efforts to initiate this project began in 2013 when The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission (HCPHC) commissioned a feasibility study, in coordination with both the FRA and The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT).
The proposed freight rail line is a 24-mile stretch of single-strand track that enables PBVR to expand service to its rail customers by providing additional capacity through dual Class I rail service. The additional rail extension will create increased access for Port Bienville Industrial Park through a North-South line and help alleviate congestion along the single track of CSX line that runs across the Mississippi Gulf Coast into the New Orleans Public Beltway.
The availability of Class I rail service will attract new industries that require this level of rail service, encouraging job creation and investment opportunities. This also leads to growth within the local community, enabling the area to recover more quickly from natural disasters that have significantly affected local economies. The proposed project also creates a freight evacuation route for Port Bienville tenants.
Currently, there is no funding identified to begin construction of the project, which is a total estimated cost of $150 Million.
The FEIS-ROD document was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which includes a public review and comment period. Impacts to wetlands, cultural resources, endangered species, and water quality are among the many area studied throughout the environmental impact review period. The FEIS-ROD approval denotes the project has been thoroughly vetted and includes all practicable measures to minimize harm to the local environment.
The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission was established in 1963 to lead the county’s economic development activities. Stennis International Airport and Port Bienville Industrial Park are home to 30 companies with more than 1,000 employees. For more information visit www.portairspace.com