Port officials lobby for railroad project
Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013 9:15 pm
Officials with the Cates Landing port project in Lake County took advantage of a visit Friday by Tennessee Economic and Commu-nity Development commissioner Bill Hagerty to lobby for a $12 million to $15 million railroad project.
The port’s legal counsel, Dyersburg attorney John Lannom, handed Hagerty a formal request asking for an estimated $1.25 million from the state to fund the first two of three phases of the railroad project at the port site north of Tiptonville.
The first two phases of the railroad project basically involve preliminary work on the railroad and right of way acquisition.
Phase III, the most expensive phase, actually involves construction of a 5.5-mile railroad line connecting the riverport to the CN rail line in Dyersburg. That phase of the project is expected to cost about $12 million, according to Lannom.
Hagerty was asked to personally deliver the port authority’s funding request to Gov. Bill Haslam.
The Mississippi River port project is expected to be completed within the next few weeks.
Construction crews are finalizing their work on the project and port officials are moving toward getting the port operational.
Hagerty is visiting each of Tennessee’s nine development districts and Friday was his chance to learn first-hand about what’s going on in the northwest corner of the state. Hagerty was joined by several key members of his executive staff, including Samar Ali, assistant commissioner of international affairs. She oversees eight overseas offices involved in recruiting economic development to Tennessee.
“This asset (Cates Landing) has such potential to have an impact on her portfolio,” Hagerty said Friday.
Hagerty and his team met with Cates Landing officials at the port office and were given a detailed overview of the riverport project by Lannom, port authority chairman Jimmy Williamson, informa economics’ Ken Eriksen and Mike Sanders with Forcum Lannom Contractors. Together, the presentation team discussed the history of the port and its future potential.
To date, more than $50 million has been spent to develop the riverport.
Funding has come from local, state and federal sources.
Now, port officials are working on securing another $12 million-$15 million to finance a railroad connection to Cates Landing. The addition of railroad access to the port would make the facility a tri-modal facility — river, road and rail access.
It was Lannom who mentioned during his presentation that the lack of railroad access is the port’s “Achilles heel.”
The riverport is being marketed to a global marketplace and port officials are pushing hard to get the railroad project funded.
“We always knew the day would come that we would have to build a rail. That day is here,” Lannom said.
Phase I is expected to take 24 months and will involve establishing the route, preliminary engineering, identifying right of way property and the process of filing environmental applications. Lannom said some of that work has already been done.
Phase II of the project involves the actual right of way acquisitions and Phase III involves building the rail line. Lannom said plans are to do Phases I and II concurrently, while Phase III is expected to take 12 months.
It is estimated the right of way acquisitions for the rail line will involve some 15 to 16 parcels of land and eight to nine property owners.
“In March, this port is going to be operational,” Lannom said as he emphasized the sense of urgency for the railroad project.
“So far this project has sold itself. That’s why we’re here,” Lannom said.
In response, Hagerty smiled as he complimented the Cates Landing team for its “fabulous job” on the port project.
“You all have done a remarkable job. I think the governor will be very receptive to this,” Hagerty said, referring to the funding request.
He went on to praise the port authority’s leadership, describing the work of those directly involved in the project as “absolutely outstanding.”
“Today, what I’ve seen is a manifestation of a terrific joint effort by our local leadership,” Hagerty told The Messenger after the port meeting. He said those involved in the project were successful in remaining committed to it over a long period, involving multiple stakeholders and the crossing of political jurisdictions. The Cates Landing project has involved significant financial support from Obion, Lake and Weakley counties.
Among those in attendance at Friday’s port meeting were Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire and Lake County Mayor Macie Roberson
Following his tour of the riverport, Hagerty and his entourage traveled to the Northwest Tennessee Development District office complex in Martin for a stakeholders’ meeting.
The next scheduled meeting of the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority is set for 9 a.m. Feb. 13 in Dyersburg.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 2.4.13