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Report To The People

Railroad Line Essential For Industrial And Economic Development

By Rep. Tommy Reynolds

The Canadian National Railroad (CN), which owns the old Illinois Central railway line that runs from Memphis to just north of Canton, announced on May 12 it was filing to sell its rail line to another company. Great concern has been raised that the transfer not be, in effect, a prelude to abandonment and removal of the rail line. The proposed sale will come before the Surface Transportation Board in Washington.

The rail line proposed to be sold runs through not only Tallahatchie and Yalobusha counties, but also through Desoto, Tate, Panola, Grenada, Montgomery, Holmes, Carroll, and Madison counties.

I feel that it would be a great tragedy if the people of Mississippi lost any more miles of rail line. The studies show that rail will be an increasing method of transportation in the future, and industrial and economic development of counties without rail service could be difficult, as some industrial or business prospects require rail service to consider locating in an area.

For example, the megasite for industrial development located at Como could no longer be called a megasite if the rail service to Como were not provided.   Likewise, the eleven hundred acre industrial park north of Grenada advertises rail service.  If there were no rail service, obviously this could not be provided.

I suggested that a meeting be held of local officials from up and down the rail line in a central location, to address the transfer issue of the rail line. Last Tuesday night, two other State Representatives, and I, drove up from Jackson to the North Mississippi Fish Hatchery at Enid, to meet with area economic development and governmental officials from the majority of the counties served by the line proposed to be sold.  At the meeting, it was agreed that each county provide representation for a railroad coalition, seeking to maintain rail service in the area.  

Under the filing of CN with the Surface Transportation Board, there is only a two year statement that service would be provided on the majority of the line, and on a portion of the line there is no guarantee whatsoever.

Following Tuesday night’s meeting at the fish hatchery, I requested that the 19 state representatives serving the area meet together in Jackson to address the railroad line sale. In response to this request, representatives from all the effected areas met together on  Wednesday  and Thursday afternoon.

On Friday morning, House Resolution 157, which I co-sponsored, and was also co-sponsored by each of the Representatives from the counties effected, was presented to the House of Representatives and adopted.

The Resolution requested the Surface Transportation Board not grant a transfer of the rail line without first securing commitment of continued, long term operation of the rail line.  It is my belief that permanent operation or availability of the rail line would best serve the interests of our area.

I was very pleased that our delegation from each of the counties effected, regardless of party or other designation, wholeheartedly joined in and supported the efforts for House Resolution 157 to be considered and adopted by the full House of Representatives.   To have the best future that our people can have, I believe the continued availability of rail service is critical for our counties.  

The Resolution requests in part,  “That the Surface Transportation Board carefully examine and revise the requirements with any proposed sale of these lines to insure that the lines will be operated permanently, and to assure the residents of the region and the users of the lines that the sale of the line will not be a de facto abandonment of the lines, which would damage the economic viability and development prospects of North Central Mississippi, and severely harm the efforts of numerous businesses that are already suffering from the effects of the severe recession that has befallen our nation’s state.”

At the meeting of Representa-tives up and down the rail line in Jackson, we had representation from our federal, congressional delegation, just as we did on the Tuesday meeting held at the North Mississippi Fish Hatchery.  I think it is critical that officials from local, state and federal levels, as well as economic development officials, work together, so that they can make all efforts to save railroad operation of the rail line proposed to be sold.

 If I can be of  any assistance to you please call on me.  My phone number in Jackson during the session is (601) 359-3365.

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