Railroad-relocation: Up in the air

TUPELO – It’ll take a few more months before Tupelo gets another update on its $2 million railroad-relocation study.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation recently gave a preliminary draft of its study – called an environmental impact statement – to the Federal Railroad Administration.
FRA has distributed it to other cooperating agencies for review, said Kim Thurmon, MDOT’s environmental division administrator.
The EIS recommends raising the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad track that currently cuts through the center of Tupelo. The elevated rail would alleviate daily traffic congestion caused by the frequent passing trains.
Thurmon said MDOT is fielding questions and gathering comments from those agencies. After that process ends, the railroad study team will update its draft and issue a report to the city.
That probably won’t happen until this fall, she said.
Agencies now reviewing the study include the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Archives and History.
“The Department of Archives and History, for example,” Thurmon said, “they have reservations and concerns about the elevated structure, as well as other alternatives because of the view-shed issue.”
The public will have 45 days to comment on the revised EIS, and Thurmon said those comments will be incorporated into a final EIS that will be sent to the federal railroad group for its approval. Approval is anticipated, and it will mark the end of the years-long study.
Engineers started the study by examining several options, including rerouting the tracks outside of town or raising the streets over the track. All but the elevated tracks option eventually were abandoned.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal