The project was approved five years ago and received federal funding under the TIGER 2012 grant program to expand the International Rail Port Logistics Park (IRPLP) and connect two major interstate, two Class I railroads - Union Pacific and BNSF - and the city’s deepwater port.
"This project positions us uniquely to take advantage of all three facets of shipping in this area - rail, road and river," said Phillip Sorrell, economic development director for the City of West Memphis.
According to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the construction improvements in the project include upgrading existing track in the IRPLP to "support the handling of heavier rail carloads of manifest and unit trains and the construction of approximately 13,500 ft. of a new rail lead to the base of the St. Francis levee. These improvements will facilitate the connection to and construction of a new transload facility on private lands through an agreement with the City of West Memphis and a private developer that will add the capability for handling bulk commodities from truck and rail to the Mississippi navigational transportation system."
The rail spur was bought from Union Pacific Railroad in 1991, with the construction of 2,600 feet of rail beginning in September. The expansion will turn the area into a 40-acre transload facility, the Memphis Business Journal reported. The project is slated for completion in March 2018 and will open 2,000 acres of vacant land for development of rail-served industrial space and job creation.
When American Shipper first reported on the port expansion grant, the Port of West Memphis was handling about 7,500 tons of freight a month, mostly by barge. In 2012, it handled only 800 railcars for the year. The port is expected to handle 350 railcars a week once the improvements are completed.