WEST BATON ROUGE PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Traffic in and out of West Baton Rouge can be like a parking lot many days. Now, the concern many residents have is if a train track expansion will make matters even worse.
"I guess my biggest concern is the length of time they would be blocking entrances at a time," said Jennifer Armstrong.
Armstrong moved from Baton Rouge to Port Allen about six years ago to avoid an hour drive home. Now, with the Port of Greater Baton Rouge and Union Pacific Railroads expanding the train tracks in West Baton Rouge, Armstrong fears traffic on LA 1 and the Intracoastal will only get worse.
"All these neighborhoods on this side of the highway, there's only one way in and out, and it's over these tracks so if there's going to be trains that are frequent or long, you're going to trapped either in or out of the neighborhood," said Armstrong.
The Port of Greater Baton Rouge voted Thursday night 11 to 1 to move forward with the plan.
"This is the result of progress I guess," said Port of Greater Baton Rouge's Director of Business Development Greg Johnson.
Johnson said West Baton Rouge has seen some great progress and growth over the years, and this project comes at the request of two companies: Drax with their wood pellets in the two big white domes and Louis Dreyfus with it's grain elevator expansion.
The $20 million project will add a chambering yard to the West of I-10. A chambering yard stores trains and prevents them from blocking intersections. There is already a line of tracks from Plaquemine to Port Allen along La. 1. Union Pacific is adding another track as an extension that will feed directly into the storage yard.
So how many additional trains does this mean for West Baton Rouge?
Union Pacific's Drew Tessier said starting this March, there will be one 80-car train a week for Drax and for Louis Dreyfus, the transports will begin next year after the project is complete.
"They'll be looking at its peak, during its harvest season, which is from Sept. to Jan., they'll be looking at 3-4 unit trains," said Tessier.
With the trains going between 10 and 15 mph, Tessier said the train will take about six minutes to pass by, not 30 minutes. Their goal is to help alleviate the traffic issues, not make them worse.
Officials said even though they're in the planning phase, they will try to run the trains at off peak times or at night.