The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a Notice of Intent on June 2, 2015 to advise the public that FRA and the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission will prepare a project-level Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Port Bienville Railroad Project (the Project). The Project is composed of approximately 24 miles of new railroad line to connect the Port Bienville Short Line Railroad with the Norfolk Southern mainline in Nichols, MS.
The Proposed Action will connect the Port Bienville Short Line Railroad, located at the Port Bienville Industrial Park, Hancock County, with the Norfolk Southern Railroad, located in the vicinity of Nicholson in Pearl River County, to provide the Port with access to dual Class I rail service. Dual Class I rail access is proposed to enable Hancock and Pearl River Counties and Stennis Space Center to attract new industries to this region that require this level of rail service, and encourage job creation and investment opportunities to help this area recover from natural disasters that have significantly affected local economies.
In 2013, MDOT completed a Feasibility Report, which included the development of reasonable alternative corridors; identification of the economic benefits and opportunities associated with the Project; and the recommendation as to the feasibility of the Project. Given the business case for dual Class I rail service, the demands of the existing and emerging business clusters in Hancock and Pearl River Counties, the future benefits to Stennis Space Center, the existing industrial land inventory, and the workforce and transportation assets supporting this region, the construction of this new rail line was determined feasible.
The Feasibility Report and additional Project documentation can be found online at: http://sp.mdot.ms.gov/Environmental/Pages/Projects.aspx.
FRA is currently in the process of developing the Draft EIS. The Draft EIS will present to the public and stakeholders FRA’s environmental analysis and open the Draft EIS for public input. FRA’s responsibility in conducting the environmental analysis is to ensure the project is federally compliant, mitigates potential impacts, and is safe. A key step in this environmental analysis process is public involvement. More information on the public hearings, public comment period, and methods for providing input will be announced as FRA prepares the Draft EIS for publication and public review in December 2017.
Environmental Review Process contact:
Environmental Protection Specialist
Federal Railroad Administration
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, MS-20
The U.S. Permitting Dashboard is an online tool for Federal agencies, project sponsors, and interested members of the public to track the Federal government’s environmental review and authorization processes for large or complex infrastructure projects. The Dashboard is part of a government-wide effort to improve coordination, transparency, and accountability. A link to this project’s page on the Dashboard is below.