Track needs repair
April 12, 2004
The cause of last week's Amtrak derailment in Yazoo County is under investigation; so far, there has been no suggestion of a terrorist act and, judging from the comments of investigators on the scene, there isn't likely to be. Instead, investigators seem to be focusing on issues of maintenance and wear and tear from heavy use.
Closer to home, wear and tear problems are also dogging a 55-mile stretch of track between Meridian and Waynesboro owned by the Meridian Southern Railway. Some of the track is 99 years old and a chunk of it broke loose the other day as Arthur J. Miller Jr., managing director of Alabama-based Rail Transportation Management Specialists, guided members of U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor's staff on a tour of the track in Clarke and Wayne counties.
Hearing and seeing the piece of mainline railhead break away must have been one of the most startling and enlightening aspects of their tour. It proves the need for immediate attention from federal, state, local and private authorities if the track is to remain viable.
In a word, the situation along the Meridian Southern's shortline route is urgent. The railroad serves Waynesboro's Marshall-Durbin grain storage and blending plant, a chicken hatchery business dependent on rail.
The plant is responsible for about 1,200 high-wage jobs in Mississippi and Alabama. In Clarke County, about 650 workers could be affected if the railroad had to close.
With so many jobs dependent on the railroad, it's essential that money be found to repair and upgrade the track.