February 17, 2009
STARKVILLE -- An engineering study is under way on the Columbus and Greenville Railway line as plans to reconstruct the roughly 200-year-old tracks continue to move forward.
Dennis Daniels, vice chairman of the North Central Mississippi Railroad Authority board of directors, said Monday an economic feasibility study already has been done for the project, while the engineering study is still two to four weeks from completion. Although the price of the project has yet to be determined, Daniels did estimate it could cost as much as $50 million. One of the challenges will be to find funding, he said, though he called on the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors Monday to request moneys from the state Department of Transportation for the portion of the project in Oktibbeha County. The track runs through nine counties, from Columbus to Greenville, with only four miles located in northern Oktibbeha.
The Railroad Authority wants supervisors from each of the nine counties to request funds from MDOT for the project. Oktibbeha supervisors unanimously agreed for county attorney Jackson Brown to contact MDOT and express the board''s interest in reconstructing the line.
Daniels said he would work on a resolution, which he plans to present to the board at their next meeting, to show the county''s intent to move forward with the project. There was no talk of how much the county might have to contribute.
Supervisors were enthusiastic about the project, especially considering the economic impact a working railroad has on a region.
"If we would contribute (funds), it would be small compared to what we would get," District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said of the economic benefit.
The Columbus and Greenville line was built in the 1800s, but has not been active since 2001, when major flooding washed out a bridge in Carroll County and the company couldn''t afford to replace it, Daniels said. Since then, two other bridges also have been washed out, he said.
According to Daniels, the entire track needs a "major" overhaul.
"We''ve got to bring the whole line up to current standards," Daniels said. "There''s going to be a lot of construction going on. It''s going to be a big project in this area."
In other business, supervisors took two more steps toward the proposed multi-million dollar renovation project at Oktibbeha County Hospital.
The board unanimously selected Government Consultants Inc., of Jackson, as the county''s financial adviser for the project. The board also voted 4-1 to select architects Dean and Dean, also of Jackson, to design the hospital renovations.
The improvements are a long time in the making. Patient rooms are more than three decades old and have been described by visitors as cramped and crowded.
As part of the renovations, every three patient rooms would be combined into two. As a result, the rooms would increase from 100 square feet to 150 square feet.
Additional patient rooms would be located in a new tower the hospital plans to build to make up for the rooms lost in the expansion.
Among other improvements, the hospital would renovate its birthing suites and, when complete, the facility would feature a state-of-the-art C-section suite and recovery area. Patients also would encounter a brand new newborn nursery and viewing area, enlarged nurse stations and patient triage and observation rooms.
There would be a new, covered drop-off and pickup area for patients and families; new elevators and restrooms; comfortable waiting spaces; and new parking decks to make up for spaces lost due to construction.
Although 61 percent of Oktibbeha County voters in November favored a bond issue to pay for the improvements, supervisors still have to vote on whether or not to issue bonds, and for what amount. The board has discussed issuing up to $27.5 million.
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