ADDIS, La. (AP) -- Union Pacific Railroad says it will spend $200 million to expand its operations in South Louisiana to meet expected higher customer demand from petrochemical plants along the Mississippi River.
The plans call for the hiring of 225 new employees.
The expansion announced Tuesday includes a new support yard in St. James Parish, an additional 29 miles of track from Livonia to Addis and more slots to assemble trains in Livonia. Union Pacific said at the peak of construction in June, 1,500 construction employees will be needed.
Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific said it expects to complete the expansion by the end of 2012. The company currently has about 1,100 miles of track in Louisiana.
Union Pacific chief executive James Young said the company already has hired 43 people for the 225 new jobs, which will pay an average of $45,000 a year. The plan also includes the retention of 1,100 current Union Pacific workers.
"These investments reflect our commitment to build freight capacity that meets our customers' needs while also promoting jobs and business growth in Louisiana," Young said.
Low natural gas prices and big supplies from shale finds have boosted petrochemical activity in the state. Gas is used as a source of heat and for ingredients used in scores of chemical products. According to figures from the Louisiana Chemical Association, industry employment has increased over the past two years from 24,113 to 26,648.
Union Pacific said the support yard in St. James Parish will reduce train delays and improve performance. The new track will add capacity by running alongside the existing Union Pacific line. The staging slots will enable crews to assemble trains without interfering with regular traffic, the company said.
"An investment of this size shows the railroad is convinced that the renaissance in Louisiana chemical manufacturing is real and will continue," said Dan Borne, president of the chemical association.
Union Pacific said it is planning to spend another $300 million over the next several years on growth and maintenance projects in Louisiana.