MALDEN, Mo. -- A proposal by Union Pacific Railroad to abandon rail lines between Malden and Lilbourn, Mo., in New Madrid County has raised alarms among community leaders in Malden.
Their concern is that the abandonment of the east-west rail route will cut off industry in the city from direct rail shipping to the New Madrid County Port Authority, possibly hurting chances for attracting new industry.
UP has petitioned the federal regulatory agency that oversees rail abandonment, the Surface Transportation Board, to abandon the track. If the track is abandoned, service would stop and the track itself would be removed for safety reasons.
The abandonment is tied to the proposed swap of 23.7 miles of track in the area between Burlington Northern Santa Fe and UP, said UP spokesman James Barnes.
Currently the swap is also under review by the STB. If approved, BNSF would give up rights on track from Rockview to Sikeston to Union Pacific, increasing traffic on those tracks by 10 to 11 trains per day. The track swap proposal has raised red flags in communities along the track, where city leaders overwhelmingly oppose the swap for safety reasons.
Malden City Councilman Ronald Dell and Malden Chamber of Commerce director Bill Hampton both think the abandonment could have a negative impact on a proposed ethanol plant for Malden's industrial park. They are concerned that the ethanol plant might not be competitive without direct access to east-west shipping.
"They're going to need corn coming in, and I don't think there will be enough corn growing locally to meet the demand," said Hampton. "The shipping is probably going to be done mostly by rail." The city's industrial park will still be served by a north-south rail route but not an east-west route. For rail traffic to reach the port it would have to take a route north to Dexter, east to Sikeston and then south to the port.
Marty Hutchinson, president of the Southeast Missouri Ethanol Cooperative, said the abandonment of the line would not be a deal-killer for the plant.
Bootheel Ethanol LLC is seeking investment capital for construction of the plant.
There is no projected date for when the STB will reach its decision.