So I found out a good deal about CSX and its Gulf Coast rail corridor this afternoon. A few points of interest:
Originally, or at least in 2003, the plan was to move CSX’s rail corridor to the north (that’s what the notice calling for an Environmental Impact Statement mentioned below was all about), and the main issue cited seems to have been safety–there are a number of road crossings along the rail (although I couldn’t get any stats on accidents)–and traffic congestion (waiting at crossings).
The Environmental Impact Statement, as I understand it, wasn’t completed, although the process of creating one did get under way. Prohibitively high costs of moving the Gulf Coast rail line might have been the reason it was shelved.
In Hurricane Katrina, the line was damaged–part of 100 miles worth of CSX infrastructure damaged, according the company. In a recent filing with Securities and Exchange Commission, it noted,
Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast in late August, had a significant impact on operations in the latter part of 2005. Approximately 100 miles of CSXT’s infrastructure was destroyed by the storm, effectively severing CSXT’s route to and from the New Orleans gateway. CSXT continued service to customers outside of the storm-affected area by rerouting rail traffic through alternative western gateways, including East St. Louis, IL, Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL, Mobile, AL, and Montgomery, AL. Rerouted traffic added volume to busy corridors and resulted in additional network congestion, which adversely affected overall train velocity and system dwell. Service to local businesses on the Gulf Coast has been restored and previously rerouted Merchandise trains have returned to the New Orleans gateway. Operations should be normalized to pre-hurricane conditions by the end of the first quarter of 2006. (emphasis added)
Since CSX would abandon its line (for about $700 million) and rely on the track of other companies instead, it’s not clear to me that additional network congestion wouldn’t continue to be a problem.
I’ll have more tomorrow…
…and Tim Chapman has more today, noting:
The Senate appropriators claim that the rail line that currently exists and is operated by CSX Railroad was damaged by Katrina and therefore must be replaced. In a Senate appropriations document obtained by Capitol Report, you can see that the Senate appropriators are claiming that “As a result of Hurricane Katrina, the rail line was out of commission for 143 days and has since reopened only on a temporary basis.”
But according to CSX spokesman Gary Sease who returned a call today from Capitol Report, the rail line is in full operation. “It went back into complete and total operation on Jan. 31 this year,” said Sease. (emphasis in original)
Chapman also dug out this page from the Senate Appropriations Committee report, which says that the $700 million will go to something called the Rail Line Relocation Capital Grant Program, which was implemented as part of the Transportation Equity Act of 2005 (see here). That language is identical to a House measure introduced in 2004 by Roger S. Wicker of Mississippi and co-sponsored by Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), and a Senate version introduced by Lott and co-sponsored by Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and John Kerry (D-Mass.).