SIKESTON -- Federal legislators now understand Sikeston's opposition to Union Pacific's plan to route additional train traffic through here and apparently are willing to support the cause.
Mayor Mike Marshall, Michael Jensen of the Standard Democrat, and former mayor Josh Bill met Aug. 12 with Sen. Jim Talent, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and Sen. Kit Bond's staff representative, Tom Shulte.
"It went real good," Marshall said of the meeting. "I think we had an opportunity to show the Senator and Congresswoman that there's no middle ground on this or compromise in this situation. It's either they run the trains through Sikeston or the northern route. We pointed out that there wasn't that middle ground. I think politicians try to find comprises where everybody can be happy but in this situation it's one way or the other."
Marshall said Sikeston's representatives made clear the city's resolve to keep the Union Pacific Railroad from putting Sikeston's residents at risk with their proposed increase in traffic.
"I believe they're going to help us," Marshall said. "With UP, it comes down to dollars and cents -- they want to go the southern route because it's cheaper for them."
A letter signed by Bond, Talent and Emerson was sent to W. Douglas Buttrey, chairman of the federal Surface Transportation Board advising the legislators have been contacted by "numerous local officials and businesses ... over the past several months to express their concerns about the proposed exchange of tracks" as well as "over 400 petitions from the impacted communities regarding this proposal."
Union Pacific must first get approval from the STB before obtaining the rail line between Sikeston and Rockview from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.
The railroad plans to implement "directional running" by routing its southbound traffic along this route while sending its northbound trains along its Dexter-Rockview line. Sikeston officials have repeatedly asked UP officials to doubletrack the northern route instead of increasing traffic here.
Local concerns are related to the impact on public safety and traffic congestion in the affected communities, the letter explains.
The letter, which was sent "largely at the request of the city of Sikeston," according to Bill, "is to request from the Surface Transportation Board the higher level of scrutiny on this question than would be contained in an environmental impact statement."
There is also a petition now being put together to send to the STB that should have about 2,500 names.
"I think we all felt there's no question that Jim Talent and Jo Ann Emerson are working behind the scenes on our behalf," Bill said. "Both the Senator and Congresswoman Emerson took the lead in proposing ideas and discussing strategies to address this question. They're not showboating, which I think is to their credit, but clearly they're engaged."