Trestle’s razing apparently imminent
Published 12:00 am Friday, May 22, 2009
Demolition of a low-clearance rail trestle over Glass Road might be just a request letter away — nine months after the City of Vicksburg claimed ownership of it as part of a planned bicycle trail.
At the time, a 4.25-mile section of railroad property roughly parallel to U.S. 61 South was officially transferred to municipal ownership after a years-long process that began initially as a way to advance casino development.
Partially dismantled by the Warren County Road Department in February 2008, the trestle has been deemed unessential to the city’s plans in renewed legal discussions between the city and county to research land titles in the vicinity of the trestle — physically abandoned for decades but owned by Kansas City Southern Railway until last year.
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Though the trestle would not impede progress of a bike trail, City Attorney Nancy Thomas said, parts of the bridge remaining over the roadway can be transferred to the county without a problem.
The cycling path was seen by the city as a secondary option when it inked a three-way deal with KCS and Lakes Entertainment in April 2007. Terms stated $1 million put up by the Minnesota-based gaming operator would pay for the land from the railroad and the $200 million casino would develop as planned. With backing from the Legislature to act as a conduit, the city stood to gain all the land and still build the bicycle trail if the casino didn’t develop. Lakes owns about 115 acres of land along the proposed casino area, but, to date, has not received approval from state gaming regulators on a financing package.
Another claim to the railroad property emerged when Foam Packaging made a formal offer with federal railroad industry regulators to preserve the lines for industrial use to ship raw materials to its facility. Federal regulators said preservation of rail service trumped the city’s plan, but after six months of legal maneuvering, Foam Packaging dropped its bid for the acreage due to expected lengthy title transfers and a strained relationship with James Riffin, a Maryland-based short line rail operator who had proposed purchasing and re-establishing the rail line south of town.
County road crews, directed by District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale after gaining informal approval by fellow board members, took down most of the structure but halted the task to avoid any violation of federal law even though the trestle supports are on county right of way.
In June 2008, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use allowing the city to proceed with the bicycle path. It ruled KCS was free to sue the county for tearing down part of the trestle if it so chose, an option not taken. Since then, Lauderdale has pursued the total removal of the trestle to allow ambulances and similarly large vehicles to clear the low bridge.
Randy Sherard, board attorney, said recent searches to determine ownership of parcels around the site indicate the city “apparently owns the property” because of the land’s previous holding by the railroad. The city “would love for us to take it back,” Sherard said, pending some type of proposal to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
The city has not put forth timetables and layouts for the bicycle trail.
Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at email@example.com