JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -A major economic development project that has flown under the radar for the past few years is now in the spotlight. That project is the relocation of the Mississippi Export Railroad rail lines from a heavily populated area to a point several miles east.
The relocation has been quietly going on since 2014 at the old International Paper site in Moss Point as well as at the Port of Pascagoula. The new line was conceived with several goals. The most important goal is to support a $60 million facility that’s on the way, which is being built by a company called Enviva. Mark McAndrews is the executive director of the Port of Pascagoula.
“The first was an economic component that was driven by the ability to handle unit trains coming down to the wood pellet export terminal,” said Mark McAndrews, the executive director of the Port of Pascagoula. Those tiny wood pellets will mean a huge impact for the railroad and the Port of Pascagoula.
And McAndrews says it’s not just the export terminal that will reap the rewards of the new rail line.
“It benefits all of our existing industries and shippers because everybody’s car will be interchanged up at the new yard,” he said.
He added that Mississippi Export Railroad will also gain in this venture.
“It allows them to have increased northern access with less congestion,” McAndrews explained.
Speaking of north, the port director’s eyes are also focused in that direction.
“It increases our ability to serve northern parts of Mississippi, parts north of here. One of the proposed follow-on production facilities from Enviva is in Taylorsville, and that would also move via rail,” McAndrews said.
One of the added bonuses of the relocation of the Mississippi Export Railroad line is more than a dozen railroad crossings will be closed in a very busy section of Moss Point and Pascagoula. Once that relocation is complete, that will lead to delight for city officials.
“It will not only help people be safe, but it helps people get to work on time. It eliminates a lot of those traffic backups in the city and communities,” said Moss Point Mayor Mario King.
And with work wrapping up, it’s time to look to the future for the port director.
“This has been a goal of the communities here for decades,” he said.
The total cost of this project is about $20 million. Most of that money has come from federal and state grants, with the Port of Pascagoula pitching in as well.
The port director is hoping the job will be wrapped up by the end of this year, signaling a new era in economic development at the port as well as elsewhere.
Meanwhile, officials with Mississippi Export Railroad tell WLOX they are excited to see this project come on line and are working on attracting other business partners in the future.