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Big boost for multi-modal station

Brookhaven got a “jump start” on its plan for a Multi-ModalTransportation Facility as Southern District TransportationCommissioner Wayne Brown presented a $75,000 check to cityofficials Thursday.

The grant will be used to fund environmental study and otherwork at the proposed site on North Railroad Avenue. Mayor BillGodbold indicated that some of the work had already been done orwas in the process.

“That’ll help us pay for what we’ve already spent,” the mayorsaid.

Brown called the facility an “important and beneficialproject.”

Perhaps the most important aspect of the funding and completionof environmental work is that it will allow the city to accessalmost $4 million in federal money that has been allocated for theproject. The federal funds must be matched by a 20 percent localcontribution, with city officials planning to use the value of theland as part of the match requirement.

Brown praised City Engineer Carl Ray Furr for his role inobtaining the federal funding. The commissioner mentioned thecity’s funds, $2 million allocated to the county for a road throughthe Homochitto National Forest and some state projects.

“He’s helped us get many dollars,” Brown said.

Furr said he appreciated Brown’s help with projects to benefitsouthwest Mississippi.

“We’ve got a lot of things going on in Lincoln County,” Furrsaid.

Officials envision a center that will house train, bus and othertransportation activities.

“We are doing our due diligence with all modes oftransportation,” said Michael Barranco, architect for theproject.

Barranco reported some progress involving Greyhound bus service,which currently has an agreement with a private business to provideservice and had not indicated an interest in locating at thetransportation center. However, citing the arts school and otherdowntown development, Barranco said he recently received a “realencouraging” call from the bus service regarding the center.

“Greyhound is being real pro-active now,” Barranco said.

Barranco said there are a lot of opportunities, such as meetingrooms, a small catering kitchen and retail or convenience shops forthe center. The architect said a long-term operational costestimate for the city has not been developed.

“We don’t know that yet because we don’t know what componentswill be staffed,” Barranco said.

During Thursday’s check presentation, officials also discussedpossible plans to close rail lines. One that was discussed was aline from Brookhaven to Natchez.

“We want to keep that,” Godbold said while mentioning city plansfor scenic rail tours between the two cities.

Brown was adamant about keeping rail lines.

“I don’t want to see any more rail taken up,” Brown said. “We’vegot to figure out a way to use it.”

Citing statistics, Brown said the state’s population grew 4percent from 1988 to 1998 while truck traffic rose 99.1 percentduring the same period. Overall traffic was up 55 percent, Brownsaid.

“It’s just no way we can keep putting that on these highways,”Brown said. “We’ve got to find a way to get more freight on thetrains.”

Brown also touted progress on plans to four-lane Highway 84 fromNatchez to Collins. Much of the project has been done or is undercontract to be done.

“It’s going to be good for commerce and industry,” Brownsaid.