Friday, June 26, 2009

Incensed Over the Inter-Modal

Frank Cagle writes a great piece in the MetroPulse about the controversy regarding a proposed Norfolk Southern inter-modal rail facility in New Market. Jefferson County residents want to see the facility in the area because of the jobs that it will create, but many don't want green farmland ruined when there is plenty of unused industrial property in East Knox County that the railroad could utilize:

Knox County has spent millions of dollars on Eastbridge Industrial Park. It sits on Mine Road in Mascot with hundreds of acres of expensive graded land still empty. It is considered too far from the interstate to be successful. It sits in an area with 2,600 acres of idle land already zoned industrial, with water, sewer and a railroad line.

Norfolk Southern wants to build an inter-modal facility, where cranes will take up to 300,000 tractor trailers a year and put them on railroad cars for shipment across country. They propose to put the facility in New Market, on 1,300 acres of farm land because it’s cheaper than locating it on an existing industrial site, as in Morristown or near Eastbridge in Mascot.

But there is one cost factor that has not been considered. Though the land is cheaper in New Market, it is 12 miles from the Asheville Highway exit of I-40 and it’s even further going the other direction through Jefferson City out Highway 92 to I-40. That’s 300,000 trucks a year going through Jefferson City or going down Asheville Highway to East Knoxville.

It would be a profitable venture for the State to build an industrial road which is just long enough to make the trip from the industrial site to I-40, as Frank points out, because of the tax revenue involved. However, Norfolk Southern would prefer to develop green fields in Jefferson County instead of using lands already prepared for this kind of industrial use.

Norfolk Southern is once again showing that the railroad has no real understanding of the people who live in these parts:

The railroad will only listen to dollars and cents. They have to be convinced Mascot is a better deal. I know my neighbors. They will fight Norfolk Southern in court for years and to the last man, woman, and child. They will fight for their tomato fields, their chicken farms, and their dairies. They don’t understand the logic of losing 50 agriculture jobs and millions in agriculture revenue to provide jobs for 12 Norfolk Southern crane operators.

At the meeting Saturday not one person made any statement opposing an inter-modal facility. Everyone wants it in the region, everyone sees it as an environmental plus and an economic boost to jobs in Morristown and Knoxville where their children might get a job. But they cannot understand raping the environment in New Market for an environmental stimulus project to get trucks off the road.

Norfolk Southern executives have the problem of believing that they are entitled to whatever they bloody well want. Further, they really have no concept of why some people might be inclined to oppose their plans, and they assume that everyone who opposes them is opposed to any kind of industrial development when that isn't always the case. In response to Frank Cagle's article, Bob Wolfenbarger writes:

Your analysis of the situation sounds like an ad by TDOT for the Tennessee Road

Bobby has to remember that his idea makes sense, and this is something Norfolk Southern as a company is markedly short on. It was Norfolk Southern, after all, that tried to tell Nicole and I that they had 100 feet of right of way on our property and our neighbors to do whatever they wish with (the railroad runs through my back yard, and a hundred feet would take my outbuildings and put them in my living room). My deed and the deeds of my neighbors begs to differ, as all of those documents say that the railroad has 15 feet of easement, not 100. A company with so little going for common sense can't be counted on to do the obviously right thing.

I have mixed feelings about the inter-modal being in Jefferson County. I agree with Frank Cagle about the prospect of good farmland being ruined in this agrarian county in which we both live, and both he and Frank Niceley are correct that if an alternative can be found without destroying greenfields, that needs to be done. The one fear that I have is that this may embolden those forces within the county-and there are plenty of them near White Pine-opposed to any industrial development. At a time when Jefferson County needs to expand its tax base to avoid being placed in a situation where it must raise property taxes perpetually to avoid default (which in turn hurts farmers), the only way to do so is through industrial and business development.

We need to develop our available resources, and find a way to do it without completely destroying Jefferson County's unique agrarian character.

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At Monday, June 29, 2009 12:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just one more reminder that the only real way to keep our economy strong is not by raising taxes in perpetuity, but by keeping taxes low, fair and simple.

We need to take action and contact our legislators and sign petitions like the ones the U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs (here).

At Monday, June 29, 2009 9:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy cow! That has to be the stupidest comment of all time! (and on this blog, that's really saying something!)

Pray tell, dear commenter, how do "keeping taxes low, fair and simple" address the issue of where Norfolk Southern places this facility? I get Dave's point about how farmland is a valuable resource that shouldn't be paved over at the whim of every developer, but how in the fuck do you go from that to "low taxes"? Is that your fucking answer to every problem? "I can't get an erection!" Answer: "Lower taxes!" Jeebus, you guys are idiots!

By the way, the Chamber of Commerce favors development over preservation in every single instance. I don't think they are the friend of Jeff County residents in this battle.

BTW, did I mention that you apparently are a fucking idiot?!


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