Marion board seeks state action on idle trains

Marion board seeks state action on idle trains

November 30th, 2014 by Ryan Lewis in Local Regional News

Kimball City Attorney and Marion County Attorney Billy Gouger

Kimball City Attorney and Marion County Attorney Billy...

Photo by Ryan Lewis

JASPER, Tenn. - Marion County commissioners want idle trains to move on down the line so they'll stop blocking access to a county road.

Property owners claim that access to and from Highway 134 in Whiteside, Tenn., at spots like Pulltight Road near the Georgia state line has been blocked for up to 14 hours by inactive trains.

"We need help," one resident told the Marion County Commission at its November meeting.

A Norfolk Southern Railway employee who wished to remain anonymous said trains are stopped until there's room further down the line for them to move. The Whiteside area gets congested more often and for longer periods because Georgia has laws in place limiting the amount of time a train can be inactive on a track.

Tennessee has no laws regulating idle trains, officials said.

County Attorney Billy Gouger said he grew up in that area, but there's little the board can do other than bringing the matter to state legislators.

"The County Commission can't pass its own laws," he said. "Georgia has resolved this with a state law, but Tennessee apparently doesn't have the same kind of law. It may need to be something we have them look into and get some help at the state level."

Commissioner Tommy Thompson suggested county Mayor David Jackson and county Road Superintendent Neal Webb draft letters to train companies that use those tracks to ask for "some consideration," too.

"I don't know that we can force them to do anything," he said.

The board voted unanimously for Jackson to draft letters to Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg, Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Tennessee Commissioner of Transportation John Schroer asking for help.

Commission Chairman Gene Hargis said any time county leaders get the chance, they should bring up the issue with state officials.

By drafting the letters, he said, the board will "get the ball rolling" and then "maybe we can get people raising eyebrows, at least."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.