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Increased NAFTA trade transport expected

Alliance positions state as railroad hub

A marketing alliance among Kansas City Southern, Illinois Central and the Canadian National Railroad will make Jackson a major hub for Canada to Mexico NAFTA trade while also enhancing the competitiveness of the Mississippi State Port at Gulfport.

Anthony Taormina, executive director, Mississippi State Port Authority, said the reciprocal trackage rights among the three railroads over tracks they own will help all of Mississippi.

“With the recent announcement of Canadian National, the largest Canadian freight service, merging with Illinois Central, the railroad will have a direct link to the Canadian market through Jackson,” Taormina said. “Kansas City Southern also has a partnership in Mexico, so this will be a direct feed to Mexico.”

Taormina said the agreement will allow more competitive rates for the port by providing cost- effective linkage with two major railroads serving the Mid-West and Chicago markets, which are very important markets for Mississippi. The routes run from Montreal to Mexico City.

In the past ports in Mobile and New Orleans had the inland advantage, and Gulfport had the water advantage because of closer distance to major ocean shipping routes.

“Now we are on par at least with those two ports,” Taormina said. “It just enhances our overall competitive position. And we think it will ultimately result in significant increases in intermodal transportation. On the service side of the industry, it should enhance job creation in the state because it puts Mississippi right in the middle of the Canada to Mexico trading pattern.”

Intermodal transportation uses containers that can be used on ship, rail cars and trucks.

Jimmy Heidel, director of the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development, said the alliance represents tremendous opportunities for Mississippi, making Mississippi competitive with any market in the country. He said the alliance is the best news about rail transportation that the state has seen in many years.

“The alliance puts Mississippi squarely in the middle of what is projected to be the fastest growing section of the country,” Heidel said. “This will make Mississippi competitive with any market in the country. It clearly adds a new dimension to economic growth and I am excited about the prospects.”

Plans are also being made to improve service at Jackson, Vicksburg and along the route from Hattiesburg to the Gulf Coast. The 15-year agreement calls for the railroads to have joint operation of yards, terminals, transload and intermodal facilities.

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