The Mississippi Transportation Commission (MTC) recently announced $3.7 million in funding for Mississippi Department of Transportation intermodal projects throughout the northern district of the state, and two Monroe County entities were award winners. The Port of Amory was awarded $214,286 toward the cost of raising an industrial site elevation, and the Mississippian Railway (MSRW) was awarded $314,820 to upgrade to heavier rail along 1,100 feet of track damaged by flooding and replace cross ties and ballast.
“We’ve had periodic washouts over the last couple of years,” said MSRW manager Charles Holloway.
The Mississippian Line runs through a section of Monroe County from Fulton to Amory.
The worst weather event was on Christmas Day 2015 when as much as eight inches of torrential rain throughout the day again washed away more sections of gravel bed under areas of track, halting all traffic for a time. Work is ongoing to upgrade the line and repair flood damage.
“We’re also placing rip rap ballast where flooding occurred. Some of the cross ties must also be replaced, having lived out their lifespans,” Holloway said.
The Port of Amory project is a collaboration with the city and the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce.
“This project has been in the works since Skip Scaggs was executive director,” Mayor Brad Blalock said. “The funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission [ARC] was originally secured by [the late] Senator Thad Cochran.”
There were a couple of hoops to jump in the process, however.
The project was delayed awaiting the new flood maps being prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Secondly, the city needed to come up with a 30 percent match for the federal funds to manage the approximately $750,000 project.
“When the new flood maps came in, they identified a portion of the port site as being in a floodplain,” Blalock said. “Also, we didn’t have the needed matching funds on hand. We were sweating bullets for a while.”
During the process, Blalock developed a relationship with a key contact at MDOT to secure their support on Amory’s behalf to get an intermodal grant for the port project.
“[Monroe County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director] Chelsea [Baulch] worked the ARC side while I worked with MDOT,” Blalock said.
The elevation of the portion of the port in the floodplain will be raised with the placement of fill originally excavated during the construction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
“We have a location off of Highway 278 west of town where that fill was stored. The site is nearly full, and we’re happy to have the dirt available to replace what we took away,” he said.
Baulch acknowledged the critical role federal funds play in county projects.
“Without this component, we don’t have the means to upgrade our infrastructure to remain competitive in the marketplace,” she said.
Looking back at the process to put a project this size together, Blalock is grateful for the collaboration of team players.
“People don’t realize how difficult it can be. The new flood maps threw us a curve,” he said.