The general manager of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, a unique riverfront asset that includes 25 miles of tracks connecting the six major rail lines that service the city's port and nearby industry facilities, plans to step down next month amid ongoing public speculation over the city-owned railroad's potential sale.
Jeff Davis took the helm of the scandal-battered agency in 2013 after its previous general manager, Jim Bridger, was forced to resign amid charges of lavish spending. Bridger ultimately pleaded guilty to misappropriation of public funds and was sentenced to probation.
Davis, 44, this week submitted his resignation, effective at the end of the year, to become chief operating officer of a Dallas-based company that handles rail transportation logistics and short-line railroad operations.
The privately held company contacted him in recent months to gauge his interest in the new opportunity, apparently as it became clear in the industry that the New Orleans railroad's fate was uncertain.
Update: Ahhh, sure, they're going with Option Number Three which is the one where you don't sell it but "partner" it out to someone because..... .Well, because there's arbitrage money to be made here and some middle man has to scoop it up.
Instead, the city will continue to work with the consulting firm KPMG to explore entering into a public-private partnership that would allow it to retain ownership of the railroad while attracting private investment that could be used to improve the line's efficiency and safety.
The city plans to solicit proposals from potential private-sector partners. At the same time, officials will review whether potential capital investments in infrastructure and real estate development could generate revenue for the city, Berni said.
The process, which could last several months, will operate in two phases. At first, proposals will be non-binding, in order for the city to gauge initial interest. Assuming it attracts interest, the city can evaluate the responses before requesting final, binding proposals.
Already, the city has sought feedback from various companies to find out if private investment potential exists, Berni said.