Monday, January 18, 2010

KCS railroad eyes freight customers in Monroe, La.

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Kansas City Southern Railway has Monroe, La., and northeastern Louisiana on its radar because of the V-Vehicle Co. plant and the Franklin Farms Megasite in Richland Parish, The News Star reports.

"It was gratifying to learn that Kansas City Southern's leadership has Monroe and northeast Louisiana on its radar," Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said after a visit with company officials in Kansas City, Mo. Mayo, District 1 Councilman Jay Marx and city engineer Sinyale Morrison met with KCS's chairman Mike Haverty, president and chief executive officer David Starling and KCS board member Rodney Slater.

Slater, who was President Bill Clinton's Secretary of Transportation, set up the meeting. Slater now works for the Washington, D.C.. lobbying firm that represents the city, Ouachita Parish Police Jury and the Monroe Chamber of Commerce.

Mayo said the group showed them a short presentation the company had put together on V-Vehicle and the state's Megasite. "Their whole executive team was at the meeting and we had open discussions about these two sites. They have us on the map for economic development."

Also a part of Haverty's Power Point presentation included the downtown quiet zone and a proposed quiet zone from Booth Street to Chennault Park. After years of negotiations, closing streets, installing gates and lights at crossings, the city was awarded in November a quiet zone through downtown Monroe where KCS freight trains no longer use their screaming whistles.

The group had a discussion on extending the quiet zone possibly as far as Chennault Park because of complaints about the train whistles from people staying at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites at U.S. 165 and Milhaven Road and the Residence Inn at Pecanland Mall.

"They're talking more gates and lights at other crossings and we discussed improvements to the Powell Street crossing where they installed a second track and it's not level with the other," Mayo said. He said vehicles crossing at Powell Street have to ease across the tracks to prevent damage.

Mayo said KCS officials also agreed to have one of its engineers help with the "Bring the Train Back" project at Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo.

"They're doing that as a good corporate citizen," the mayor said.
Marx said the two-day trip (Wednesday and Thursday) was important to the city and KCS.

"I am confident this opportunity will lead to a bigger and better partnership," he said.

"We have been working with KCS for quite some time. However, it is always a great opportunity when you can put a name with a face. The success of these meetings will be when more action is taken as some of the goals discussed are implemented," Morrison said of the meeting.

Mayo said a major purpose of the meeting was to build a stronger professional relationship.

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