STARKVILLE — Representatives from the Appalachian Regional Commission were in Starkville Tuesday and presented Mississippi State University officials with a $100,000 check to study the Columbus and Greenville Railway line, which has been out of service between West Point and Greenwood since 2001.
Researchers at MSU already conducted a preliminary study on the track, but the ARC grant, coupled with several other grants, will allow university officials to study more in-depth the feasibility of replacing the track. The grants total $375,000, MSU assistant professor of political science and public administration Bethany Stich said, and will be used to determine factors such as the cost, environmental impact and economic impact such a project might bring to areas along the line.
A worthwhile investment?
“Then we”ll make the determination whether or not the project should move forward and if it”s a worthwhile investment of your tax dollars,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., told a packed room in Mitchell Memorial Library Tuesday at MSU.
Wicker and his office have been in contact with the ARC for the past two years to discuss the line. Wicker said he is excited about the prospect of reopening the track.
“I”m glad today we”re talking about something that”s been a part of our heritage for decades,” Wicker said.
History of the line
Built in the 1800s, the track was used primarily to transport freight, such as agricultural products and manufacturing equipment, and hasn”t been used for passenger service since the 1940s or early 1950s, Cynthia Wilson, chairman of the North Central Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority, recently said.
C&G began operations in 1975 as a carrier between Columbus and Greenville. Then in 1985, a wholly-owned subsidiary of C&G, Delta Transportation Co., was formed for the purpose of acquiring approximately 63 miles of track contiguous and connecting with the C&G”s existing line in the Mississippi Delta.
In September 1995, Delta merged with C&G. After the merger, Delta was dissolved.
Closed for business
The Railway continued to operate until 2001, when flooding wiped out a bridge in Carroll County. The line between West Point and Greenwood subsequently was shut down due to its poor condition and has since fallen further into disrepair, with growth covering significant portions of the track.
Talks began in 2005 to rehabilitate the railroad, including the replacement of track, bridges and trestles. The state Department of Transportation has estimated it would cost more than $60 million to complete the revitalization project, Stich said.
Guy Land, who serves as chief of staff for ARC federal co-chair Anne Pope, stressed how important the railway is to towns along the route.
“There is a possibility of the C&G becoming the key spoke in the economic development wheel of north Mississippi,” Land said.