Railroad issues

Friday, June 9, 2006

When Union Pacific Railroad announced last year that it planned to acquire a segment of track from Rockview to Sikeston through Scott County, officials and residents along the affected area expressed concern, much of it over the additional noise and inconvenience of adding 10 or more trains a day to the route.

The bigger issue is safety. While the federal Surface Transportation Board has yet to review UP's application, the Missouri Department of Transportation has scrutinized the proposal and has recommended several upgrades that could cost millions of dollars. Sikeston and Scott County officials have said they are against the UP's plan, also citing safety reasons.

Part of the problem may have been created by UP itself. After announcing its plan to take over the stretch of track, it pretty much ended any discussions with local officials. The official opposition from those local leaders has grown to include letters from Southeast Missouri's congressional delegation to the Surface Transportation Board that re-emphasize the issues raised by local officials.

Last week, UP decided to change course and reopen its dialogue with area officials. Sikeston's mayor, Mike Marshall, welcomed the offer to discuss the situation but reiterated the city's opposition to UP's plan.

Safety issues cannot be ignored. To allow UP to take over the track without addressing these concerns would be irresponsible. At the same time, local officials could offer suggestions to accommodate UP's traffic.

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