Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Robinson: Annual Railroad Funding Needed From State

No railroad funding in the new state budget a concern to White County Executive Denny Wayne Robinson.

Robinson chairs the Tri-County Railroad Authority. He said funding for railroad maintenance has become hard to come by. Robinson said Governor Bill Lee gave $85 million for railroads in 2019, but that funding is set to run out next year.

“With it not being in the Governor’s budget this year, that causes us a little bit of concern,” Robinson said. “This year is okay, but we need that funding in the future to maintain the bridges and the overpasses and the road crossings.”

Robinson joined operators in meeting this week with Governor Bill Lee and state representatives to express the importance of rail lines to rural communities – and the need for annual funding. He said several prominent industries in White County rely on railroads to get supplies.

“We need to somehow get that funding continued,” Robinson said. “Actually, yearly funding. Not some of this ‘get some now and then,’ because it’s hard to plan and hard to make plans for the future if you don’t have substantial funding.”

Robinson said diesel tax is supposed to be distributed to fund railroad maintenance. He said several court cases over the past decade have made that money harder to get.

Robinson said the governor and representatives were receptive to the request.

He said getting materials via rail is much cheaper than getting them by truck, plus it keeps trucks off of the roads. He said in Warren County, Bridgestone gets a lot of its inventory from the rail. He said there is also a company moving into Morrison, Tennessee that will be a major rail customer.

“The railroad is responsible for the crossings, not T-DOT,” Robinson said. “So there’s upkeep there that has to be maintained, and it costs money.”

Robinson said he is pleased that everyone seemed to be on board and looks forward to hearing some of their ideas about how to make this funding more available for the counties across the state that rely on it.

“It’s vital to keep that line of communication open,” Robinson said. “Having that line allows us to be able to talk and just have candid conversations about what works and what doesn’t work. You’ve got to stay down there. You’ve got to stay active. When you walk in there, they’ve got to know who you are.”

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