Article Comment 

State approves $15M for C&G rail project

 

Tim Pratt

 

The Mississippi Senate last week approved $15 million in matching funds toward the reconstruction of a 90-mile stretch of the former Columbus and Greenville Railway line.  

 

The North Central Mississippi Railroad Authority won''t receive the $15 million, however,¬†until all financing for the estimated $99 million project is in place, Railroad Authority board of directors chairman Cynthia Wilson said. The funds would be used to repair and replace a dilapidated stretch of track and bridges between West Point and Greenwood.  

 

Dennis Daniels, vice chairman of the Railroad Authority board of directors, told the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors March 18 that businesses and private donors already have pledged $20 million toward the project. The Railroad Authority is seeking federal funds to help pay for the rest, Wilson said.  

 

"We will be going to our congressional delegation in Washington and asking for their help," Wilson said. "Now that we have support from the state, it should be easier for us to get funding from the federal level."  

 

The North Central Mississippi Railroad Authority delivered more than 1,000 letters of support for the project to the governor''s office in mid March, Daniels said. The letters arrived just two weeks prior to the vote on Senate Bill 3181, which designated funds for the Railroad Authority to complete the project. The letters came from counties, cities, businesses and residents along the tracks, which are now owned by Genessee Wyoming Railroad. 

 

Approximately five miles of track are located in the northwest Oktibbeha County town of Maben. 

 

Wilson believes small towns like Maben and Eupora will benefit from a functioning rail line.  

 

"When we get the line reopened, it will mean the counties and towns along the line in that 93 miles that did not have rail service will at least be considered for industrial projects," Wilson said. 

 

The Mississippi Development Authority is searching for locations for nine projects this year, Daniels said. Those projects would produce more than 3,000 jobs, he said. 

 

"We''re not going to be considered for that unless we get this line through Maben," Daniels said. "To top that off, I''ve got one company that I talked to that owns property in Maben that said ''The day you get your rail line open, we''ve got businesses going back in to these vacant warehouses.'' So, Oktibbeha County immediately stands to profit from this if it goes through."  

 

Daniels did not elaborate on what companies could open along the tracks in Maben. 

 

Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, also spoke of the importance of having a railroad in the Golden Triangle which could run from the Tenn-Tom Waterway to the Mississippi River in Greenville.  

 

"This is the cog that is left for our area," Chism said. "If we could have something going east and west -- we''ve already got railroads going north and south -- it would help all of these smaller towns that are along the Old Highway 82 all the way over to Greenwood and Greenville. All of these towns don''t really have rail service, so they can''t go after the economic development projects like towns that do have rail service."

 

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment No Thanks commented at 4/4/2010 5:37:00 PM:

The State is broke so we find funds for an unnecessary railroad.
Maybe someone should point out to Rep Chisom that the Columbus & Greenville RR does not make it to the Ten-Tom, it ends in West Point. The right of way from West Point to Columbus was sold to private property owners years ago.
Railroads are inherently dangerous.
They are used to haul the most toxic and dangerous substances. Maybe Ms Wilson does not care that one derailment could kill a bunch of innocent people. Has anyone discussed how many unguarded crossings there will be along the 93 miles of this boondoggle?
If this railroad had any chance of being a profitable venture, private funds would have already restored it. Instead us over taxed citizens get to pay for it and live with the dangers and the nuisance it creates.

 

Article Comment Crazy! commented at 4/5/2010 7:42:00 PM:

This is insane! The Kansas City/Southern (a viable RR company) has parked box cars on the tracks stretching from Starkville to beyond Sturgis for the last 12 months. Translation: no trains are running on that track since they would have move 1000+ boxcars first!

With all of our industries closing, there is little demand for RR shipping around here. Furthermore, most local municipalities should end the "buffalo hunt" for heavy industry. In general, our workforce is too poorly educated, and most companies refuse to locate here once they see our pitiful public school systems. The 21st century companies demand quality workers, quality public schools and quality-of-life, things our local governments seemingly know nothing about.

So, the solution is for the broken state to flush $15M down the drain on this unneeded RR. Can we say cow-processing plant for the Golden Triangle?

 

Article Comment Comment on Comments commented at 4/6/2010 12:42:00 AM:

The first two comments need commenting on.
"No Thanks" writes that Railroads are inherently dangerous and that hazardous chemicals are hauled by rail. I wonder where the writer proposes that these "toxic and dangerous substances" should be transported? By truck? Does the writer propose that highways are a better place to move hazardous materials? Railcars are far safer for hauling products that pose a threat to our health and environment - railcars designed to hold hazardous products are built to take low to moderate speed collisions and derailments without rupture. The writer is also incorrect that the C&G terminates at West Point. The C&G arrives at Columbus via trackage rights over the KCS, a situation brought about by the building of the Ten-Tom. It appears the "no thanks" is astute at using statements designed to illicit an emotional response rather than facts to promote an argument.

The writer of "Crazy" is incorrect or misinformed on several points. The KCS line through Starkville does not bisect the state, and proceeds to Ackerman then Louisville and terminating in Newton with a connection to the KCS Jacskon-Meridian line. The current depression of the forest industry in Louisville and subsequent decreased shipments originating and terminating there has KCS running trains from Louisville to Newton only, rather than Louisville to Artesia. The C&G line is the only east-west line bisecting the state between Jackson-Meridian and Memphis-Tupelo, which is part of the rationale for revitalization. "Crazy" is terribly pessimistic about the quality of our workforce potential in Mississippi - with this argument the Nissan plant in Canton or Newsprint South in Grenada would have never been built. It is worth noting that if Canton and Grenada were without a railroad neither would have the jobs that these industries have created. A high quality line with reasonable transport times would provide a corridor for economic development (heavy industry) for central Mississippi.

Both of the writers ignore the costs that we taxpayers spend on highway resurfacing and construction, the life of which is shortened significantly by heavy truck traffic. According to the Missouri DOT, a single mile of 4 lane highway resurfacing costs $1,000,000. Moving more heavy freight to rail is safer, cheaper, and saves more fuel than highway freight. From a logical perspective, If the federal funds (65M) are secured, coupled with the 20M of private funds pledged, the 15M of state funds is a good investment for Mississippi.

 

Article Comment Crazy! commented at 4/6/2010 8:41:00 PM:

I do understand where the KCS runs. And it provides an existing, albeit less direct, a east-west path across the state. My point is that a national RR company like the KCS cannot currently utilize an existing, in-good-repair right-of-way through the Golden Triangle. How does anybody reasonably think that C&G (abandoned and decaying for more than a decade) will be more successful? Oh, and we're going to 0 give it the old college try with $80M of government money -- our money. This, at a time when we can't even pay for our school systems.

About workforce potential in Mississippi... I've lived other places and have many contacts in leadership of corporate America. I can assure you that companies that are planning for long-term growth in the 21st century information economy would never consider most places in Mississippi. Almost exclusively because of the poor educational opportunities for their worker's children. They know that they would not be able to recruit and retain the educated talent they need. Ask any info-based company in rural Mississippi today. They will tell you that retention of good employees is their biggest challenge. Beyond that, quality-of-life is exceedingly important for the educated professionals that bring stable (hard to export) and high-wages.

I agree about RR making more sense than big-rigs on highways. I know the physics involved. But do we really want to spend $80M on the CHANCE that the C&G would recruit industry to Maben, Eupora, and Winona?

 

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