Railroad abandonment proposal could hurt MS towns - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Railroad abandonment proposal could hurt MS towns

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A crushing blow was dealt to the economic future of Mississippi towns like Durant, Winona and Pickens Tuesday after a proposal to abandon the railroad serving those cities was filed with the National Surface Transportation Board.

The little town of West looks like a movie set. Remove the cars and it's 1850, put 50s cars there and it's 1950. West is about to lose its railroad which it has had for over 150 years.

The company that owns the track north of Canton to Grenada filed with the National Surface Transportation Board Tuesday to abandon that 83 mile stretch of track.

Grenada Railway has a vice president who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He says the line lost $100,000 last year and has already lost $100,000 this year. Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall says a law firm has been hired to fight the abandonment.

"I mean you take away the best shot they had for industry," said Hall."You take Winona, for example, they have a railroad and Highway 82, a great place to put a major industry, you take away a railroad and they haven't got a chance."

One of the hardest hit towns will by Pickens, which still relies on the railroad for lime to its co-op and pulp to a paper company, its largest employer. 

Mayor Joel Gill is very disappointed. "And we are even talking about these tracks being taken up, and sold for scrap metal and that's something, in this day and time, once they are gone, they are gone."

This line once supported the Panama Limited running over it at more than 100 miles per hour when it was owned by Illinois Central, but now its top running speed in places is 10 miles per hour.

It's up to the National Surface Transportation Board, a three person board, to decide the fate of this railroad. 

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