Natchez Railway improvements underway

Published 12:17 am Wednesday, July 10, 2019


NATCHEZ — Improvements to increase weight-bearing capabilities and safety of the Natchez Railway between Natchez and Brookhaven are well underway, according to railway officials.

During Tuesday’s finance meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen, Doug Davis of Natchez Railway Inc. and Ed Landreth, project engineer, presented aldermen with an update on the nearly $13.3 million project, approximately $10 million of which is funded through a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant program and the remaining $3.3 million match funded by Natchez Railway Inc.

The project scope includes rehabilitating and upgrading five of the railroad truss bridges and all 25 wooden bridges, replacing two failing culverts and adding safety improvements to 28 public road crossings, Davis said.

To be eligible for funding, Davis said the TIGER grant had to be applied for by a municipality.

Since the City of Natchez had been approved for funding in July 2016, Davis said the railway finished rebuilding all of the wooden bridges and began work on each of the five steel railroad truss bridges, which are expected to be complete by October 2019.

Previously the bridges could only hold carloads up to 275,000 pounds while the industry standard is at least 286,000 pounds, Davis said.

“It’s impeding our ability to take most normal sized carloads,” he said. “With these new upgrades to the bridges, we’ll be able to accommodate 286,000 pounds.”

Davis said new railroad crossing improvements — including state-required signage improvements on all of them and flashing lights and sirens on six of them — will increase the safety of rail line operations as well as traffic safety where the railway crosses public roads.

The crossing upgrades are scheduled to be completed in December 2020 or sooner, Davis said.

The TIGER grant is funded through the year 2021.

In other matters during Tuesday’s finance and regularly scheduled meeting of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen, the board:

  • Unanimously approved a 15-year finance agreement from Home Bank for LED upgrades to the city’s lighting with Schneider Electric for approximately $1.5 million. Home Bank representatives said the first payment of $71,000 would be due July 1, 2020.
  • Unanimously approved a revised request for proposals to lease the old depot on Broadway Street. The deadline to submit proposals is Nov. 1.
  • Unanimously approved a citywide water improvement project invoice in the amount of $20,580 to be paid using funds from a Community Development Block Grant.
  • Unanimously approved an application requesting an extension of the city’s recycling grant through Dec. 1.
  • Unanimously approved an application for a Community Heritage Preservation Grant to restore the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture.
  • Heard a request from Leola Harris to change the name of Fisk Avenue to Mary Lee Toles Avenue in honor of a former Adams County Justice Court Judge and president of the Natchez NAACP who died November of 2017. The board took Harris’ request under advisement.