Rail Hearing

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rail hearing granted on proposed abandonment

By John Howell Sr.

The Surface Transportation Board of the U. S. Department of Transportation has granted the Mississippi Transportation Commission’s request for an oral public hearing on the abandonment of rail between Grenada and Canton.

The decision effectively denies Grenada Railway’s attempt to “fast track” the abandonment process.

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“At least it gives us an open voice in a public place to state our objections,” Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons said. “This is definitely the first step in a good direction for all of us,” he added.

Simmons and economic development and government officials from affected counties have met to create a public rail authority that would buy the line from Grenada Railway, LLC to prevent the abandonment. The line includes the old Memphis-to-Jackson route of Illinois Central which passes through Hernando, Senatobia, Sardis, Batesville, Oakland, Grenada, Winona, Vaiden, Durant and Canton. Canadian National acquired the line from Illinois Central in the late 1990s and then sold it to Grenada Railway in 2009.

Local officials expect that Grenada Railway’s closing plans for the southern segment of the track to be followed by plans to abandon the section north of Grenada.

Letters from rail users and others affected by the abandonment plans have been filed with the Surface Transportation Board. The transportation committees of the Mississippi House and Senate have filed a joint petition citing the negative impact of the abandonment on the state and seeking the hearing.

“I understand that these hearings are rarely granted,” House Transportation Committee chairman Warner McBride said.

The hearing will be held in Grenada, but the time and place have not yet been announced.