Wednesday, September 09, 2009

County commissioners derail support for track relocation

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Colbert County, Ala., Commissioners will not be writing a letter of support for a proposed project to relocate the Norfolk Southern tracks that run through Sheffield, Muscle Shoals and Tuscumbia, according to the Florence Times-Daily. An item seeking support from the commission was removed from the Sept. 8 meeting agenda by Commission Chairman Roger Creekmore at the request of Commissioner Emmitt Jimmar, who questioned why the commission was even involved in the issue.

Creekmore explained that the Shoals Metropolitan Planning Organization is seeking letters of support from local governments to include in their application for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grant, which would fund the project.

Steve Stanley, a Sheffield City Council member, saw the TIGER grant as a means to fund the estimated $80-million project.

Several county residents voiced their opposition to the project and urged commissioners not to pledge their support.

"We're going to fight this tooth and nail," said Tuscumbia resident Mary Carton.

Carton said she preferred the use of overpasses to solve the rail traffic problem rather then constructing new tracks through an area of the county that is becoming more developed.

Frankfort Road resident Dale Spain said he wants some assurance that overpasses would be built rather than ground-level crossings, especially on the heavily traveled road on which he lives.

Creekmore reiterated that the MPO would move forward with the project with or without the letter of support. He also reminded the residents that the railroad could exercise their right of eminent domain if they wanted land for the new rail line, which is designed to move rail traffic out of heavily populated areas of the Shoals.

Residents also voiced their displeasure over the use of the phrase, "railroad relocation" since the project includes the construction of about seven miles of new railroad tracks. The old railroad track would remain in the three cities to serve local customers.

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