Railroad commits to upgrade track
By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
May 2, 2004
Meridian Southern Railway LLC has committed $250,000 to help refurbish a 55-mile stretch of railroad it owns in Clarke and Wayne counties.
East Mississippi economic development officials have said 2,000 jobs held by Clarke and Wayne county residents depend on the repair and upgrade of the stretch of railroad track.
Officials with the East Mississippi Business Development Corp., as well as economic development districts and boards of supervisors in Clarke and Wayne counties, are working to obtain federal funding as another component to repair costs.
And Arthur Miller, the managing director of Alabama-based Rail Transportation Management Specialists, said Meridian Southern's commitment will help reach the goal.
Meridian Southern's commitment would be matched with a $250,000 state grant and is contingent upon Mississippi Department of Transportation's railroad funds.
The stretch of railroad links Waynesboro and Meridian, where it then connects with Kansas City Southern Railroad and other carriers.
Miller was recently hired by Wayne County to investigate the line's problems and locate funding for repairs. Some of the track is believed to be nearly a century old and few repairs have been made over the past three decades.
Couple that with last spring's round of flash floods in East Mississippi, he said, and some people fear the line could become impassable.
The biggest plant that could suffer from the condition of the railroad is Waynesboro's Marshall-Durbin grain storage and blending plant, a chicken hatchery business dependent on rail.
The plant is responsible for about 1,200 jobs in Mississippi and Alabama.
In Clarke County, about 650 workers could be affected if the railroad had to close. The preservation of those jobs was the main reason East Mississippi economic developers, business leaders and elected officials teamed to find money to fund the repairs.
Eric Lee, chief executive officer of Meridian Southern Railway, said he was pleased with the support of the project.