Thomas B. Coleman, former CEO of International-Matex Tank Terminals, announced he wants to buy the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad to spur the local economy and ensure the railroad remains locally owned.
“A privately owned, locally headquartered company will result in the greatest benefit for New Orleans and maximize reinvestment in the community,” Coleman said in the statement, which did not mention a price.
Coleman’s offer comes a month after Mayor Mitch Landrieu, in a Dec. 16 letter, encouraged the Public Belt Commission to “hold open, public hearings” on the benefits to New Orleans that private ownership of the Public Belt would bring.
In his letter, Landrieu noted that private groups have recently advocated for the sale of the Public Belt as a way to raise money for the city. But others oppose outsourcing the Public Belt, arguing that it “provides equal and affordable access for the Port of New Orleans and local industries,” Landrieu said.
Under state law, the City Council has the right to sell the Public Belt to a firm or corporation if the Public Belt Railroad Commission decides doing so is in the interest of the state, the city and the Port of New Orleans.
The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB) is a Class III switching railroad with the primary mission of serving the Port of New Orleans and local industries. The NOPB is a neutral carrier, with direct connections to six Class 1 Railroads, for which we play an important role in expediting local and intermediate freight through the strategic New Orleans rail gateway. New Orleans Public Belt operates nearly 25 miles (40 km) of main track and 97 miles (156 km) of yard track, exclusively serving many of the Port of New Orleans facilities on the east bank of the Mississippi River.