Citizens' Watchdog Group Criticizes CSX Plan

Americans for Prosperity says the $700 million that would buy the CSX rail right of way is an earmark. That's an addition attached to budgets with little discussion or debate. The money is part of the Iraq/Katrina emergency appropriations bill.

AFP's president says the railroad money is not an emergency.

"We believe that $700 million to rip up a perfectly functioning railroad to move it, when it's in a bill that's supposed to be for emergency purposes for Katrina recovery, it's not the right way to go."

Tim Phillips says damaged and destroyed businesses and homes should be more of a spending concern than the tracks.

"Let's take the money that's for Katrina recovery and make sure we're using it for the most emergency oriented projects and the things that are most important to helping people get back on their feet."

But the man who chairs the transportation committee of the governor's post-Katrina commission says the rail issue is important to hurricane recovery. In a recent interview on WLOX News This Week, Anthony Topazi said moving the trains would move Highway 90 to higher ground.

"So what we're proposing with the help of federal funds is to relocate Highway 90 out of harm's way. The best place to put Highway 90 happens to be the CSX railroad right of way. We couldn't go buy another right of way for anywhere near what CSX is talking about. So the issue is protecting Highway 90 and the needs for Highway 90, especially during disasters."

Hancock Bank President George Schloegel, a long time supporter of the CSX relocation, says the $700 million is a wise investment because there will be another hurricane that will damage or destroy Highway 90, and a safer east-west roadway in Harrison County is badly needed.

Schloegel says, "FEMA has spent one point two billion dollars of our tax money on temporary repairs to re-open Highway 90. The least expensive route for a new roadway is the CSX right of way."

Congress is expected to take up the appropriations bill the week of April 24th.