Railroad Recovery
Articles, Blog

Railroad Recovery

August 14, 2019

New Orleans, LA
September 2009 Railroad Recovery
Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad system. FEMA
has obligated more than $16 million to help the agency get back on track. Jim Bridger: The railroad has been around
101 years. Last year 2008 was our centennial celebration.
We have 28 miles of mainline trackage that goes from the west side of the Mississippi and
Avondale into Gentilly and New Orleans East. Aside from that we have about 150 miles of
switching yards and tracks. During Katrina, the eastern end of our railroad
really took the brunt of the hit. The water which came in was on our yard for several
weeks. A lot of tracks were twisted, ballast and ties were washed away, including yard
offices and few railcars. We were totally out of commission for
approximately 3 weeks. We partially got up after about three weeks, but not fully until 6
months. Once we got with FEMA, we truly entered into
a partnership. They have worked with us to identify all of the
areas that need to be rebuilt. That’s the ties, that’s the rail, that’s the ballast. Now to date,
we’ve had all the project worksheets approved, they’ve signed off on them, and
now it’s time to go to work and rebuild. Originally we had wooden ties. Once we
worked with FEMA, and explained to them the benefit of putting in steel ties, particularly long-
term in a damp environment. They agreed to fund that, which will basically keep that
railroad intact and in shape for about 100 years. The crossing signals, the activation
gates for the public rail crossings were all underwater for weeks. All of the electronics,
the batteries were ruined and FEMA replaced those 100%.
The one thing I really want to get out there is, FEMA initially can be a little intimidating just
because it’s a government agency, it’s a bureaucracy. But the one thing we quickly saw
was their willingness to enter into a partnership, to work with us. And they truly
made what at first was a questionable or uneasy experience a good experience.

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