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Posted on: March 2, 2021

City Corner Column: Port of Victoria rail expansion will boost region’s economy

Overview of proposed rail expansion shows a rail loop that provides access to more land

PHOTO: An upcoming rail project at the port of Victoria will allow the port to accommodate larger unit trains and provide access to three undeveloped tracts of land.

When I tell people that I’m the executive director of the Port of Victoria, most are surprised to learn that Victoria has a port—even those that have lived here for many years.

Even residents who’ve never heard of the port benefit from the economic growth that we bring to Victoria. As with any aspect of economic development, the success of the port is closely tied to the financial well-being of the entire region. It’s been said that a rising tide lifts all boats, and a new expansion project that’s underway at the port will help Victoria by expanding our economy and bringing in new businesses and jobs.

Portrait photo of Sean StibichThe Port of Victoria provides businesses with access to the Intracoastal Waterway, a shipping route stretching 3,000 miles along the U.S. Coast, by way of the Victoria Barge Canal. We also offer rail access to Houston, Mexico and Canada. Our primary exports are crude oil and petroleum products, although we provide service to many types of businesses.

The port recently secured a $6 million federal grant (including a $3 million match from the port) that will help to fund the construction of a new rail loop and ladder track at our north industrial site. Our commissioners have wanted to do a project like this for decades, which is why we jumped at the opportunity to apply for this funding that was made available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This is the largest grant the port has ever received and the first to be oriented specifically for economic development.

Adding the new rail loop will allow us to accommodate large unit trains carrying more than 100 railcars. This is a great improvement for our clients, who will now be able to take advantage of the reduced costs associated with bulk shipments. This will give us a competitive advantage as businesses look at us as an alternative to nearby ports in Houston and Corpus Christi.

The expansion will also open up three previously inaccessible tracts of land totaling 115 acres at our north site. With multiple companies already expressing interest in the new tracts, we’re confident in our ability to have tenants lined up by the time the project is completed later this year. This, in turn, will improve Victoria’s tax base and bring new high-skilled and high-wage jobs to our region, along with secondary supporting businesses, such as equipment suppliers, that often spring up around big industry.

The benefits of this project tie in with the economic development goals expressed by our local government leaders and other entities working to boost our region’s economy. Mayor Rawley McCoy and County Judge Ben Zeller lent their assistance to the project by writing letters with support along with our state elected officials.

Our local leaders’ commitment to promoting economic development is articulated in a memorandum of understanding that was recently signed by the Victoria Navigation District, which oversees the port; the City of Victoria; Victoria County; the Victoria Regional Airport; and the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corporation, aptly dubbed the “Big Five” by McCoy. With this renewed commitment to collaboration, we hope the port will see many more mutually beneficial projects in the future. 

Sean Stibich is the executive director of the Port of Victoria.

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