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Supervisors approve creation of railroad authority

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Board of Supervisors has voted to create and join the Southwest Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority, a group that would work to save the 66-mile railroad from Natchez to Brookhaven if it is abandoned by its owners.

The Natchez Democrat reports the railroad authority is intended to include Adams, Franklin and Lincoln counties, through which the railroad runs.

Supervisors approved the organization Monday. The authority will have the power to own the railroad and its assets and levy fees associated with the rail, Natchez Inc. executive director Chandler Russ said.

The rail line is owned by Natchez Railway, LLC, whose president has maintained the company has no intentions of abandoning the railroad. Natchez Railway bought the track from Canadian National in 2009.

Regional business leaders at first praised the sale of the line, hoping the new owners would inject life into the little-used, neglected spur. The celebration turned sour almost immediately when it was discovered the owners of the new corporation also own Salt Lake City-based A&K Railroad Materials Inc., one of the nation’s leading railroad salvage companies.

Natchez Inc. chairwoman Sue Stedman said the authority also has the power, without purchasing the railroad, to secure federal funds for the railroad’s maintenance that private companies would be much less likely to obtain.

Natchez attorney Walter Brown said since much of the railroad’s maintenance involves bridges or crossings, the authority could obtain funds to work on those types of public property maintenance.

Stedman said a short line operator would operate the railroad in the event the authority buys it to save the railroad from abandonment.

Stedman said losing the railway could cut economic prospects in half.

Brown said even prospective industries that do not use railroads might still desire the option of rail transportation.

Brown said the authority would become active once the other counties adopt resolutions to join.

The Legislature this year authorized creation of the railroad authority.

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