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KCS’s revamped Marconi Line reopens in Victoria

(The following story by Sonny Long appeared on the Victoria Advocate on June 17, 2009.)

VICTORIA, Texas — The Macaroni Line is back in business.

Kansas City Southern Railroad opened the Victoria to Rosenberg rail line Wednesday with six to eight freight trains a day expected to use the stretch of railroad that includes the newly revitalized tracks. The tracks also pass through Wharton, El Campo and Edna.

Known as the Macaroni Line because that is what the Italian workers ate when building the rail in 1882, the line will reduce the current route from the Pacific Coast of Mexico to Kansas City, Mo., by about 70 miles. KCS had been using lines belonging to Union Pacific Railroad that are also used by Amtrak.

KCS refers to it now as the Rosenberg Line.

"Certainly we are thrilled at the opening of the line," said Victoria County Judge Don Pozzi. "We encourage all citizens to be vigilant since these lines haven't been operational in many, many years. Safety is the No. 1 issue."

Bypasses proposed in both Victoria and El Campo that would divert the train traffic away from major roadways are still on the drawing board.

"KCS is still committed to pursuing the Victoria and El Campo bypasses in the future. Right-of-way must be acquired first. Preliminary engineering has been done," said Warren K. Erdman, KCS executive vice president for corporate affairs.

KCS and the Texas Department of Transportation have a memorandum of understanding on the construction of future bypasses. The railroad is also waiting on word from the Federal Railroad Administration on a rail relocation grant. The grant will allow right-of-way acquisition to begin in El Campo. Other than that, there is no precise timeframe on construction of either bypass, Erdman added.

Pozzi said the Victoria bypass is vital.

"I look forward to the day they can bypass the route they are using," said the county judge. "I would like to see it happen sooner rather than later, but I also realize it will take cooperation between Kansas City Southern, the highway department and, in some cases, private landowners. We need to move forward and get that done."

The opening brings rail service to the communities along the line and needed rail capacity to South Texas to reduce highway congestion and the number of trucks on Texas highways.

The restoration of the line will also make this part of the state more economically competitive, leading to future economic opportunity and jobs, according to a news release from KCS.

The total project, including an intermodal shipping facility at Kendleton, about 10 miles north of Wharton, costs $173.5 million.

Train operations will begin gradually in order to allow motorists to adjust to the restored service. In the first few days of operation, trains will run a maximum speed of 10 mph over all public crossings. The maximum authorized speed will increase to 25 mph beginning June 29.

Except for segments of the line where there will be speed restrictions, maximum train speeds will increase to 40 mph beginning July 13. Beginning Aug. 1, the maximum authorized speed will increase to and remain at 49 mph.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

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