Rail line move?
Published 8:18 pm Wednesday, May 3, 2006
By By KERRY WHIPPLE BEAN – Publisher
Rail service in Brewton and Atmore could be affected by a proposal to relocate CSX Transportation's rail line from the gulf coast farther inland - but how much is uncertain.
A vote could come later this week on an emergency spending bill that provides money for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan but also for hurricane recovery - including $700 million to build an inland route for CSX Transportation Inc., whose rail line now hugs the gulf coast from New Orleans to Mobile.
Mississippi Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran, who is also chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, have been pushing the bill.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions has been opposed to the railroad funding in the bill, but Sen. Richard Shelby has so far backed Lott and Cochran on hurricane spending measures.
CSX has not publicly stated its plans in detail, but the Press-Register in Mobile has reported the rail line would be diverted north from New Orleans to Meridian, Miss., then on to Montgomery.
Escambia County Industrial Development Authority Director Marshall Rogers said she was told Tuesday by a CSX official that the plan would have little impact on Brewton.
At least four industries in the county currently use rail service, Rogers said - Smurfit-Stone, Frit Car, Citation Brewton and Masland.
Citation purchasing director Sue Shivers had not seen any details on the plan, but she said she did not think it would affect her company, which receives rail shipments from the Birmingham area that do not involve Mobile's rail line.
Both Rogers and Blankenship - whose Coastal Gateway EDA covers Escambia, Monroe and Conecuh counties - said they use access to rail service as a tool to recruit industry.
Blankenship said the idea that hurricane damage is behind the move seems like a “knee-jerk reaction.”
CSX officials did not return calls for comment Tuesday.