Guest Column by Tommy Reynolds

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2011

Representative proposes MDA assistance to Grenada Railway

I will soon introduce legislation to attempt to preserve and upgrade the rail line which runs from the Tennessee State Line to Canton, the old Illinois Central, which runs through Yalobusha County.  The line also runs through Desoto, Tate, Panola, Tallahatchie, Grenada, Carroll, Holmes, Yazoo and Madison Counties.  This line was previously owned and operated by the Illinois Central Railroad and was then transferred to Canadian National.

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The rail line has since been sold to a short line rail corporation, namely Grenada Railway, LLC in 2009.  Prior to the sale of the rail line to Grenada Railway, the line received a very limited amount of expenditures for maintenance and improvements.  This caused much of the line to become a Class I operating line, which limits trains to only 10 miles per hour on the line.  This slow speed greatly reduces the ability to serve customers on the line and may in fact jeopardize the economics of operating the line itself.

There is a great need for proper maintenance and for rail bed and bridge repair and replacement along the line so that the line can be maintained and an be increased so the speed of trains running on the line can increase.

I believe that it is essential that every existing  rail line be saved and maintained–certainly those which serve our area and counties.  If the communities and counties along the line, such as the City of Batesville, the City of Senatobia, the City of Grenada, the City of Winona and our Yalobusha County portion of the line, were to lose rail service, I believe this could seriously  impede prospects for economic development in the future up and down the line and in our state.  I do not think it would be possible to acquire rights of way at the current time and rebuild a rail line.  Therefore, I want to make every effort to preserve, maintain and improve this great asset for our area.

 The Grenada Line railroad extends for 175 miles, from Southaven to the Northern edge of Canton.  Last year there were 2,900 carloads of traffic on the line, with a majority of business from paper and forest product industries.  These are critical industries for our state and should be areas of growth for the future.

I have met with officials of the Grenada Railway Line, with legislators who represent districts up and down the line, with local officials, and have been in discussions with officials of the Mississippi Development Authority on this project.  I plan to introduce legislation which would allow the Mississippi Development Authority to provide assistance for the upgrade of the Grenada Railway Line.  The legislation will seek $6.5 million to be used as match to rehabilitate the railroad line, and to help make the line viable for future use.

Rail traffic and rail lines in this century will increase and rail should be a critical piece of the transportation infrastructure that we maintain.

The Grenada Railway Line that runs through Yalobusha County is certainly a vital link in our rail system, and should remain a functional and operating part of that system.  On a historical basis, the original predecessor of the Grenada Railway Line was chartered in 1852.  I want to see that the Grenada Railway Line is, if possible, still be operating in 2052.

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.

(Tommy U. Reynolds represents Mississippi’s District 33 which includes portions of Yalobusha, Tallahatchie and Lafayette Counties.)