Elevated railroad studied in Tupelo

BY EMILY LE COZ
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Officials with the city’s $2 million railroad relocation study say only two options remain for easing Tupelo’s train congestion – raise the tracks through downtown or do nothing at all.

The choices were culled from a list of 14 potential options – including several to reroute the tracks around town – that were studied after the launch of the project in August 2005.

“We felt like it was the preferred alignment,” said Claiborne Barnwell, an environmental division engineer with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which is conducting the study along with other consultants like Omaha-based HDR Engineering.

Barnwell said the group rejected the other scenarios several months ago because of numerous factors but hadn’t yet made the decision public. The latest community hearing was in August 2007, and Barnwell said the next one likely is still months away.

But several Tupelo officials already know about the options, and not everyone agrees. Michael Jones, chair of the Tupelo Historic Preservation Commission, said erecting an elevated railroad track through the heart of the city would forever mar its character.

“Look at downtown Jackson,” Jones said. “When they raised the track in 1928, it was only a matter of years before it basically split the city. Everything on the west side of that rack deteriorated in value and eventually entire churches were abandoned.”

The study was initiated because train traffic already causes congestion through Tupelo, blocking several busy intersections roughly 30 times daily. The frequency of passing trains is expected to increase within the next decade.

Jones will meet with MDOT and other officials, including representatives from the city and the state Department of Archives and History, in Tupelo next week to discuss the potential impacts of such a structure. The meeting was organized by MDOT.

“It’s a cultural resources meeting,” said MDOT Archeologist John Underwood. “The engineers will spell out what they conceive as far as auditory effects, vibratory effects. We will be concerned with impacts, and how we remedy this will be the focus of the discussion – what could be put into the design mix to alleviate some of this.”

Barnwell described the elevated tracks as a “huge trestle” or bridge that would slice through the city, starting in southwest Tupelo near Eason Boulevard, intersecting Crosstown, and extending to Joyner Avenue in the northwest. It would carry the Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains over the city so they’d no longer intersect vehicular traffic.

With an estimated price of $407 million, the elevated rail was one of the less expensive alternatives being considered in the study – partly because it uses the existing route and requires minimal right-of-way purchase.

It also was the preferred option during a public hearing during the summer of 2007, when more than 100 residents viewed maps, talked to engineers and shared comments.

It’s either the elevated tracks or nothing at all, Barnwell said, explaining that engineers could still opt for doing nothing before preparing the final Environmental Impact Statement.

Once the EIS is finished, it needs approval by the Federal Railroad Administration. The railroad relocation study will then be considered completed.

Although funding for the study came from federal sources secured through then-U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., it’s unclear who would fund the actual project of lifting the rail.

It’d likely be a cooperative effort between the city, BNSF and other sources, Barnwell said.

T-Town comment: Could Mike Jones be a bigger idiot ?

Jones said. “When they raised the track in 1928, it was only a matter of years before it basically split the city. Everything on the west side of that track deteriorated in value and eventually entire churches were abandoned.” It wasn’t the elevated train that brought values down, IT WAS THE GREAT DEPRESSION MORON. THAT STARTED IN 1929 ! The “Have’s” made it just fine, the “Have Not’s” lost ALL value.

Can anyone in Tupelo use info thats NOT over half a CENTURY old ?

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One Response to “Elevated railroad studied in Tupelo”

  1. bigwoolymammoth Says:

    i wish they wouldve just paid my $2 million to study that……jeebus

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