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Adams County supervisors seeking ways to promote RR and port
from Staff Reports - NEWS
December 6, 2016 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – Adams County board President Mike Lazarus said more work is needed to get industries to use the Natchez river port and its railroad.

“The railroad is losing money,” said Lazarus, referring to Natchez Railway Inc., which operates the Natchez to Brookhaven rail line. “The railroad is struggling to help promote that area.”

At a meeting Monday of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, he discussed with port Director Anthony Hauer what could be done to market the port and its adjacent industrial area to spur more economic development.

“We’ve got to get some jobs in Adams County…. We’re getting beat up and beaten down,” Lazarus said.

He pointed to the recent closures of the Isle of Capri casino (2015; 240 employees), JC Penny (2014; 55 jobs) and Kmart (2016; 30 employees), which resulted in a reported combined loss of about 320 jobs in Adams County.

Local business recruiters do try to sell industries on what the port has to offer – such as its train access – but the Natchez railway has been handicapped by deficient bridges. However, to fix that, a $10 million federal grant was awarded in July to upgrade five structurally deficient bridges on the railroad’s Natchez to Brookhaven tracks.

This is seen as a major step to increase the railway’s potential for more traffic. The old bridges were inadequate to handle the heavier train loads needed to make the Natchez-Brookhaven line financially feasible. Trains were limited to lighter loads and traveling at 10 mph over the bridges, according to federal government reports.

The improvements will permit railcars to meet the 286,000-pound industry standard and allow them to travel at 25 mph over the repaired bridges.

In spurring more business for the Adams County-owned Mississippi River port, Hauer said it’d also be helpful if Natchez Railway charge prices “that customers can live with” to travel on its tracks.

Crude oil is currently the main commodity carried on this line, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Genesis Energy near the Natchez port is a large user of the railroad.
Shipments on Natchez Railway’s line dropped from 6,678 rail cars in 2014 to 4,140 in 2015, according to DOT. This 38 percent decrease was a direct result of its bridges’ inability to accommodate heavy rail cars. The only railroad going to and from Natchez has faced being abandoned in recent years.

Another federal grant awarded this year to help spur the port area’s development will pay for building a levee at Adams County's Belwood industrial site by the Mississippi River. About $2.3 million was made available for the phase-one construction of the levee to protect the Adams County-owned land from floodwaters.

The Delta Regional Authority and Cochran announced the grant in October. Groundbreaking should begin by summer, said Doug Wimberly, a civil engineer with Jordan, Kaiser and Sessions. His firm has a $100,000 contract with Adams County to design and manage the levee’s construction. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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