Bond issue approved for railroad purchase 4/1/2014

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bond issue approved for railroad purchase

By John Howell Sr.
An omnibus bonding bill in the Mississippi legislature was amended late Saturday night to include $30 million to finance the purchase of the 187-mile railroad link from Southaven to Canton.

Representative Tommy Reynolds of Charleston said that the bill made it out of conference two minutes before deadline for it to have died under legislative rules. Reynolds had been one of the co-sponsors of House Bill 787 that called for $30 million in bonds to be issued to finance the rail’s purchase.

That bill passed the House, but after it died in a Senate committee, House and Senate rail supporters began efforts to add $30 million to Senate Bill 2975 that also included $200 million in bond financing for capital improvements and construction at universities and community colleges, the history and civil rights museum, highways and 28 other specific projects.

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The Saturday decision to include language authorizing bonds for the rail’s purchase keeps alive hope by economic development and local government officials to preserve rail service in the nine counties through which the rail passes.

Rail line owner Grenada Railway, LLC had announced in 2011 plans to abandon the southern 86-mile stretch of track between Grenada and Canton. The North Central Mississippi Regional Rail Authority (NCMRRA) was formed to purchase the route from Grenada Railway and its parent company, A and K Rail Materials. The NCMRRA was concerned that abandonment of the southern portion would eventually be followed by abandonment of the northern leg, leaving nine counties without rail service.

 Grenada Railway was formed in 2009 to purchase the route from Canadian National after CN shifted rail traffic between Memphis and Jackson to its more westerly line through Marks, Greenwood  and Yazoo City.