PASCAGOULA — The Rail Authority of East Mississippi has $1 million in a congressional appropriation for the proposed rail link from Waynesboro to Lucedale, but there is a problem, according to the authority’s executive director.
“This would be one of those nasty old ‘earmarks’ that everybody talks about that really aren’t as bad as people think they are,” said Geoffrey Clark.
The money through the Federal Highway Administration was requested by Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, he said.
Chris Gallegos, a spokesman for Cochran, said in an e-mail, “Sen. Cochran is interested in working with state and local officials to try to determine whether the project can qualify for other federal discretionary funding in the future.”
Clark said the project to lay about 50 miles of new track that will link East Mississippi to the ports in Pascagoula and Mobile will continue.
The authority is seeking $1 million from the state, and another $350,000 in federal grants.
The money, including the $1-million federal earmark, is for planning, design and environmental work.
The authority operates off funding of about $330,000 annually from the member counties of Lauderdale, Clarke, Greene and George. The authority was formed in Sept. 2009, and unsuccessfully sought $225 million in federal transportation money through the stimulus program.
The north-south rail link would tap into the region’s forest products, particularly the manufacture of wood pellets.