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The Vampire Project
Rails to Trails morphs into just rails
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First, I commend Mr. Ketchum for having enough community interest to write his article, "Rails to rails: It makes too much sense," Nov. 16. Mr. Ketchum appears to have not been around to hear all the reasons for the project to be deemed not feasible or to experience the long emotional struggle over the project.

Just like a vampire (appropriate for Covington) the Rails to Trails Project won't go away and die. Where is a wooden stake when I need one? Rails to rails may seem like a logical concept on the surface, but lurking underneath are monsters just waiting to suck the life blood out of the city and county.
In case you live in Middle Earth and are not familiar with the Rails to Trails Project, it's probably a good time to refresh some memories. It involves the purchase from Norfolk Southern of the Central of Georgia Railroad running 15 miles from near Porterdale, through Covington and Mansfield, to Newborn, demolition of the existing tracks and reconstruction to a paved bike path.

Reconstruction back into a working railroad takes the concept even further away from reality. Further to the issue, the projected cost of the project published to the public was drastically understated. There are three railroad trestles, that are in a serious state of deterioration and would need to be replaced at considerable expense, and numerous railroad crossings that require renovation and traffic protocol. The rail bed, ties and rails are deteriorated beyond use and would need replacement.

Having managed the design and construction of many significant projects as a professional, I can advise that Maintenance and Operating Costs almost always exceed the First Cost of project development. This is an asset that requires constant regular maintenance to maintain its condition, safety and to prevent the property from becoming an eyesore. There must be a program developed, funds acquired to defray the costs and personnel dedicated to execute the program. Marta has already proven that it is not a profitable business venture.

Lighting must be provided, especially at road crossings, bridges and areas near public activity. This is not just some light poles and fixtures but the design and construction of a complete system of electrical power utility distribution.

Hazardous Material Remediation is a significant requirement and would be a very expensive cost to the project. There have been four fertilizer warehouses located on the railroad right of way where arsenic was handled for the treatment of boll weevils on cotton plants. The arsenic in powder form was stored and shipped in paper sacks which tore and spilled arsenic everywhere it traveled. There will most likely be arsenic spillage absorbed in the soil at these locations and the length of the rail. The contaminated soil will require remediation and disposal at extensive cost.

In addition, asbestos was deposited at any location where the train applied its brakes traveling along the route. This will probably encompass a large area since the trains normally had to apply brakes on the approach grade into Covington. The expense of soil remediation will be very costly to perform and is not included in the projected cost of the project.

The existing rail ties are treated with creosote which has been leached out and absorbed by the soil. The contaminated soil must be remediated which requires removal and disposal to an EPA Hazardous Material Disposal Site.

The cost of hazardous material remediation would is so high as to be prohibitive to the commission of the project.

In a period of frightening economic decline, joblessness and financial problems in all areas of society, we must fiercely guard against any spending that is not absolutely critical to maintaining the safety and operation of our community.

Perhaps one day in the future when we have a healthy economy and growth, we may again plan investments in recreational projects.

William Perugino is active in local and regional politics and can be reached at