WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker announced a $7.54 million federal transportation grant to support restoration of Grenada Railroad that extends from Southaven to Desoto County.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has approved the North Central Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority (NCMRRA) application for FASTLANE grant funding to undertake a series of improvements and repairs primarily for the southern portion of the line that extends from Grenada to Canton.
“We are very fortunate and blessed to receive this grant,” NCMRRA President Larry Hart told the Herald. “It will help with much needed repair on the line.”
The federal grant represents 50 percent of an overall NCMRRA project to rehabilitate approximately 90 miles of track between Grenada and Canton. The grant will also support reactivation of 18 active warning devices, and new tie installation sufficient to raise the entire 180-mile Grenada Railroad line to Federal Railroad Administration Class II standards, which would allow train speeds up to 30 miles per hour.
The project also entails repairing the Coldwater River Bridge near Coldwater and repair work on several other bridges, according to Hart.
The project will also be supported with private-sector funding and the Mississippi Department of Transportation Railroad Revitalization Fund Loan Program.
“This grant will help preserve the hard-fought effort to restore service in north-central Mississippi. Improving the Grenada Railway is an important part of an overall transportation system that supports economic growth,” Cochran reported in a press release. “I commend the railroad authority for competing successfully for this funding.”
“Restoring this rail link through the heart of our state will result in a brighter economic future for the region,” Wicker said. “The project will combine public and private funds to improve freight movement, enhance safety for the general public, and protect and create jobs all along the corridor.”
History of NCMRRA
NCMRRA was created as a non-profit organization from the eight counties served along the 187-mile route. Following the rail line’s 2009 purchase by a rail salvage company, government and business leaders — fearing that salvage company would soon abandon the line — organized to develop an alternate strategy. Their fears were further substantiated in 2011 when the rail operator announced intentions to abandon the south segment of track.
Successful legislative lobbying efforts from the eight counties including Yalobusha prompted the legislature in 2015 to allow NCMRRA to issue $30 million in bonds to purchase the railroad from the salvage company; the Mississippi Development Authority provided an additional $13 million loan to complete the $43 million purchase price. NCMRRA consummated the purchase in 2015 and immediately leased its operation to Iowa Pacific, a rail company that had proved itself successful with short line railroad around the country.