New Orleans Rail Gateway Program

Project Details
Start date:
July 2011

Finish date:
December 2021

The New Orleans Rail Gateway (NORG) is a critical link in the Nation’s and Region’s transportation system. The NORG serves freight rail traffic for six Class 1 railroads and passenger service for three Amtrak routes.

Studies dating back to 1975 have been conducted by the Louisiana DOTD, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission (NORPC) and the Class 1 railroads to identify ways to reduce rail congestion, highway crossing delays and improve rail service.    

A 2007 Infrastructure Feasibility Assessment (2007 Study) identified two feasible alternatives to reduce delay and improve rail service; by either improving the existing Back Belt through Old Metairie or creating and improving a new Middle Belt along the Earhart Expressway/I-10 Corridor.

The DOTD and the FRA, in coordination with the NORPC, the Class 1 railroads, and Amtrak, began preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in 2011, building upon these two feasible alternatives.    

Initial stakeholder outreach indicated a lack of consensus and polarized public opinion to the 2007 Study alternatives. Also, the 2007 Study projected freight growth but held Amtrak passenger service at the current five trains daily. The 2011 EIS Study reflected an increase in passenger service to 62 passenger trains daily based on previously prepared passenger rail corridor planning studies and the State Rail Plan, which would most likely adversely affect the improvements being evaluated.

Recognizing these challenges, the DOTD and FRA mutually agreed to temporarily suspend the EIS study until additional funding is secured to re-evaluate passenger train forecasts and possible alternatives. Discussions with elected officials will then be held to gauge community support and Gateway-wide studies will continue when there is consensus.

DOTD and FRA will continue studying, as funding is secured, smaller individual projects that provide public benefit and be constructed independent of any other Gateway improvements.  It is expected that the railroads will continue advancing some projects to improve rail operations.

For more information, call (504) 488-6196. Comments may be submitted to NORG@mbakerintl.com or mailed to P.O. Box 56845, New Orleans, LA 70156-6845

2011 Gateway-wide EIS Study Documents

Jefferson Highway Rail Crossing Relocation Study Documents