ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — It has been almost 10 years since the Columbus and Greenville Railway (C&G) has operated in North Mississippi.
During that time, the railway has deteriorated and aged to the point of overgrown conditions. And businesses looking to locate in the South have bypassed many towns in Mississippi that used to benefit from the rail line.
Estimating a $100-million cost of repairing the rail line, leaders across the state have developed a grassroots campaign for support from the business, state and federal arenas.
Dennis Daniels, who serves on the North Central Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority, says if the line is not repaired, business prospects will continue to decline.
The Mississippi Development Authority lists which towns meet the criteria of businesses to locate there.
“Our name didn’t even come up for consideration,” Daniels said. “We’re not going to get a shot at a business no matter what, because we don’t have consideration.”
The railroad authority includes representatives from Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay, Webster, Montgomery, Carroll, Leflore and Sunflower counties.
With a continuing escalation of travel costs, shipping goods by highway is growing less and less sustainable.
While a train gets 462 miles on a gallon of diesel, trucks don’t have that advantage.
In fact, four 18-wheelers are needed to haul the same amount of corn that one rail car can carry.
Right now, the Mississippi Delta receives corn hauled by 18-wheelers from poultry producers.
“They’re going down loaded and coming back empty,” said Cynthia Wilson, chairwoman of the railroad authority.
The C&G is the only line north of Jackson reaching from Mississippi’s eastern border to the western one. It runs from the Tennessee River to the Mississippi River by connecting the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway port to the Greenville port. It also runs through Maben, a town under Oktibbeha County<s umbrella, which receives little industry today.
Federal funding, which Wilson hopes will amount to $60 million, is contingent upon state support of $20 million. Private investors are said to share the other $20 million.
Daniels said there’s hope for Oktibbeha County and the rest of northern Mississippi.
After talks of revitalizing he rail line, companies, which Daniels didn’t specify, are already expressing interest in locating there.