MONROE, La. (AP) — Construction is under way on a rail extension at the Greater Ouachita Port that officials believe will create a boom in business.

The News-Star reports ( Amythest Construction of West Monroe won the bid for the $1.6 million job that was funded through six federal, state and local entities.

"It gives us considerably more capacity for future development," Greater Ouachita Port Commission President Rick Guillot said. "We're thankful all of the funding agencies came together at the same time."

The project will extend the rail on the land side of the port. Although the port has a dock for river access, so far its business is exclusively rail.

Currently the port relies on its primary customer, Graphic Packaging, to make all switches on the tracks. Once the rail extension is complete, port personnel can make their own switches, which will allow the port to attract other customers.

"We know the interest and demand is there not only for what we've been doing with intermodal international shipping with Graphic, but also to expand domestic shipping," said Terry Baugh, chief financial officer for Ouachita Terminals, the private operator of the public port.

Port commissioner James Lee believes the rail expansion will create a significant economic impact.

"It's going to be a great thing for our region," Lee said. "It adds strength and depth to what we're already doing."

And because the bid came in lower than expected, the commission still has $1.5 million it can use to do a second rail expansion in the future.

"Ideally we wanted to build more rail from the start, but we scaled it back a little to make certain we could complete the essential need of the project," Baugh said.

The project is expected to be complete in November.


Information from: The News-Star,