Natchez and Adams County Celebrate Completion of Natchez Rail Line Improvements
Posted 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday, March 23, 2022
NATCHEZ – A critical rail line to Natchez was abandoned in 2009 until Natchez Inc., private business leaders, and county and city officials convinced owners of the rail line to iron that it was possible to make money from it instead.
Natchez Railway, Natchez Inc. and these public servants and business leaders gathered in Duncan Park on Wednesday morning to celebrate the completion of a $16 million public-private project to rehabilitate this railway line, which will is considered the “gold standard” for shortlines, a representative for its owner said.
“It’s an example of how a public-private partnership should work,” said Doug Davis, a Natchez Railway representative.
He said the railway was in poor condition when his company bought it and formed Natchez Railway in 2009.
Fearing that the rail line would be dismantled and its parts sold, Natchez Inc., with the help of city and county officials, paved the way for the formation of a regional rail authority and convinced communities across the railroad to oppose the abandonment, said Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ.
“After many, many discussions with the owners of the railway line, they decided that instead of abandoning it, they would operate it.”
In 2017, Natchez Inc., city and county officials helped secure a $10 million Tiger grant from the federal government for rail line improvements. Natchez Railway had to put together a $3 million match with this grant.
“Just as we were nearing the end of this project, we had a massive collapse on a bridge just off Liberty Road, north of St. Catherine Creek. We were able to get $2.4 million from the state to help cover this big deck washout,” Russ said.
In total, Natchez Railway has invested approximately $4 million of its funds along with approximately $12 million of state and federal funds to upgrade the rail line between Natchez and Brookhaven.
“The main thing was to improve bridge structures to allow fully laden tankers to cross those bridges,” Russ said. “Before the upgrades, only 85% loaded tankers could use the line and they could only travel the bridges at 10 miles per hour. Today, these tankers can be fully loaded and travel 25 miles per hour. It’s the gold standard for shortlines.
“Velocys, all future tenants of the Mississippi River Energy Complex, which is the former site of International Paper, other port customers, will all be able to use this railroad. It could bring in a ton of business. We are excited about the opportunity to bring products in and out of our port,” he said.
“This is the culmination of many years of work to maintain and rehabilitate our rail line, which is a very, very important part of Adams County,” said Sue Stedman, who sits on the board of directors. of Natchez Now, the private enterprise finance arm. for Natchez inc.
Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said that because of the renewed railroad, ‘we have the opportunity to do more than we’ve ever done…We can now take a full train by n anywhere along the east coast.”
Gibson praised the work of the late Thad Cochran, who for many years represented Mississippi in the US Senate. He said Cochran, along with U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves and former mayors Butch Brown and Darryl Grennell were instrumental in securing funding for the project.
Wes Middleton, chairman of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, also thanked former congressman Gregg Harper, who is now a lobbyist for the city and county.
“In closing, I want to assure residents that your local elected officials, Natchez Inc. and our lobbyists are working daily to improve the lives of our residents,” Middleton said.