WAYNESBORO, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the Rail Authority of East Mississippi
The Mississippi Legislature has authorized $1 million in bond funding for the Rail Authority of East Mississippi. The funding will assist in the engineering and design phase of the 56-mile shortline rail project to connect the Meridian Southern Railroad at Waynesboro to the Mississippi Export Railroad at Lucedale. This will re-establish continuous rail service from Corinth, through the Golden Triangle, down to Meridian and to the Gulf of Mexico at the Port of Pascagoula and Port of Mobile. The project complements the $44 million investment by the Port of Pascagoula for rail and port terminal upgrades.
Larry Gandy, executive director of RAEM, praised the region's legislators for their work: "Our regional delegation worked diligently to secure support for this funding from their colleagues in what will benefit the entire state's economic development. Senator Phillip Gandy of Waynesboro championed this project in the Senate, and Representatives Sherra Hillman Lane, Dennis DeBar and Speaker Pro-Tempore Greg Snowden showed leadership on this project in the House and we appreciate their work as well as other House and Senate members from the region." The conference report for Senate Bill 2906 which authorized this funding passed the Senate 48-4 and the House 75-43.
RAEM has begun an environmental feasibility study in Wayne, Greene, and George Counties to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act utilizing previous funding from the state. Approval of this NEPA study by the Federal Rail Administration will enable the use of federal funding for construction. Local member counties have invested more than $750,000 in developing the rail project.
RAEM recently released positive findings from a comprehensive study on the wood products market in East and Southeast Mississippi and its impacts on the market and rail service in the region.
"We have boots on the ground doing environmental impact studies and personnel studying the economy of our region who tell us this rail project is not only feasible, but essential for our region and state's economic development future. And we have strong support from our state legislature and leaders. This project is moving forward and as long as we continue to work together, we'll see significant growth and job creation in the future as a result of this project," said Larry Gandy.
RAEM is a multi-county partnership including Lauderdale, Clarke, Wayne, Greene, George, and Jackson Counties, whose purpose is to develop the East Mississippi Intermodal Rail Corridor and create continuous rail service between the Gulf of Mexico and Meridian and north to the Tennessee line.