By The Associated Press
GRENADA — The new owners of the Grenada rail line have filed papers with the federal government to abandon the track and sell it for scrap.
The line abandonment would permanently stall plans to reopen a local rail line.
Officials want the line kept open as a possible boost for the economy.
Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall said the abandonment will be opposed.
“I mean you take away the best shot they had for industry,” Hall said about the region. .”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,” Gill said.
Grenada Railway LLC filed with the National Surface Transportation Board on Sept. 20 a notice to abandon that 83-mile stretch of track.
Grenada Railway officials said the line lost $100,000 last year and has already lost $100,000 this year.
The entire Grenada Line runs 175 miles from the Tennessee border into Mississippi to Canton. The company has not said anything about the northern route from Grenada into DeSoto County.
The southern route, the Grenada Railway, says in NSTC documents, “has proved to be a financial fiasco.”
Among the cities affected by the abandonment — in addition to Grenada and Canton — include Duck Hill, Winona, Vaiden, West, Durant, Goodman, Pickens and Vaughan.
The railroad said the line “has generated insufficient traffic to permit its continued operation.” It said there are only six shippers on the line in 2010 — Georgia Pacific, Hankins Lumber Sales and Thomas Wood Preserving at Elliott; Dunham at Winona; and Burrows Paper and Tri-County Cooperative at Pickens.
“Together they accounted for a total of 289 carloads of inbound or outbound freight. That equates to approximately 3.5 cars per mile per year,” the railroad said.
Grenada Railway said Georgia Pacific and Dunham closed their operations on the rail line this year. It said Winona Hardwood at Winona became a shipper for the first time in 2011, for a total of five remaining shippers.
“Together they accounted for a total of 92 carloads of inbound or outbound freight during the first six months of 2011. Annualized that comes to a little more than 2 cars per mile. No railroad can continue to operate with such little traffic,” the railroad said.
The railroad said it met with the shippers in May but got no sufficient commitment for increased traffic on the rail line. It said those shippers mostly use Interstate 55 or U.S. Highway 51, which parallel the rail line, to move their products.
The railroad also said there were efforts to create a $6.5 million rail improvement fund by the 2011 Legislature solely to renovated the Grenada-to-Canton line. It said that failed when the Legislature put only $5 million into the fund and other railroads lobbied to have the money made available to anyone not just Grenada Railway.
Grenada Railway said it got a commitment for $4.5 million from the state but the State Bond Commission declined in the fall of 2001 to issue bonds for the project.