MAKING TRACKS 

Tennessee railroad plan could ease traffic woes.

Tired of getting stuck in traffic when a train is stalled on the tracks? According to a proposal from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), that may not be a problem in the future.

TDOT has outlined a new rail plan for West Tennessee that will reroute the five major rail lines that currently run through Memphis to a superterminal located at Frank C. Pigeon Industrial Park in southwest Memphis.

Each of the five lines has its own yard where the trains stop to load and unload freight, but this new plan would allow construction of about 140 miles of double-track to reroute all the lines to the superterminal.

"It would divert traffic around the eastern and southern edges of the city, providing safer intercity traffic," said Ben Smith, director of public transit, rail, and waterways for TDOT.

The existing track that runs through the city would still be used as a light-rail corridor to haul local freight, but according to Carter Gray, metropolitan planning coordinator for the city's Office of Planning and Development, it would probably be utilized only during the night when there is less traffic on city streets.

The superterminal would be built on 1,000 acres at the southwest Memphis site in an area that is currently an empty field. TDOT estimates that the project would cost $1.02 billion.The state hopes to fund the project in part through the U.S. Transportation Re-Authority Act which is due out next summer. There is also talk of building a new railroad bridge across the Mississippi River. The Frisco Bridge is more than 100 years old, and TDOT believes a new bridge is long overdue.

"This is still just a plan, and there's a long way between a plan and track on the ground," said Gray.

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