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John Bryan: Our railroad deserves legislative support to free funds held by state

John Bryan • Updated Jan 2, 2018 at 11:00 AM

For several years, our local community has depended on its own short-line railroad to bring goods in, ship goods out and help recruit new industry and new jobs.

The railroad’s presence was critically important to Wilson County’s economic stability and is a major factor in the potential for local government to create new opportunities to grow its tax revenue base, which, in turn, provides funding to improve education, pave roads and keep our citizens safe.

We need the Nashville and Eastern Railroad. And we need the assurance that the railroad will be here today, tomorrow and in our future. 

I served as chairman of the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce a few years ago and was amazed by the inquiries our county received about relocating a business or industry here because of the railroad access. 

The Nashville and Eastern Railroad is an attractive and unique selling tool that has proved to benefit the growth of our county and expand the tax base.

As reported in this newspaper recently, short-line railroads in Tennessee are severely in need of financial support to make repairs on track and other infrastructure.

The necessary revenue for these projects, many critical, is currently held by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, pending the outcome of a federal lawsuit challenging the state legislation that created the short-line rehabilitation fund.

Our state legislature should address this issue when it returns to Nashville in January and provide the necessary interim funding for these rehabilitation projects until the court’s decision is rendered.

This revenue urgently needs to be distributed to the short-line railroads across our state so it may continue limiting road congestion and serving industries that provide quality employment in communities such as ours.

The future of this industry, so important to us all, is compromised by the short-lines’ inability to access the funding held by TDOT.

There is a compelling reason, no doubt, for our state senators and representatives to become engaged in this issue.

After all, it’s a matter of economic well-being for our county and the competitive edge it enjoys to attract industry with rail service and that, as we all know, translates into the quality of life we enjoy today and what our children and grandchildren will experience after us.

John B. Bryan is vice president and business development officer for CedarStone Bank. Bryan served as chairman of the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce in 2014 and currently serves as a board member of the Wilson County Joint Economic Community Development Board. He also serves as a board member and secretary of the Industrial Development Board of Wilson County.

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