1. Wouldnt a new highway be the best way for freight to be shipped from Chattanooga to Asheville?
A half century ago, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) recommended such a highway to bring commerce to the mountain communities. Since then, a grid of interstate highways has been built to serve that purpose. Our communities have built their commerce on tourism lured by the pristine beauty of the mountains and valleys, unspoiled by concrete and asphalt.
The new ARC study questions whether there really is a need to accommodate greater truck traffic, making the case that trucking should be seen only as viable transport at the beginning and end of commercial transport by rail. Improving transportation should focus on improving the present main lines and rejuvenating the local lines which have fallen into disrepair and disuse.
This plan would efficiently and economically tie the towns together along Corridor K and satisfy the ARC desire to interlink communities with the global market.
2. But isnt a new interstate highway the best way to link the mountains to the seaports?
Our current interstate highway system already links major manufacturing and distribution centers to the ports, and simple improvements to our present roadways would efficiently enhance the web without destroying the natural beauty of the region.
3. What is the actual mileage on the present track from Chattanooga to Asheville?
The Norfolk Southern (formerly Southern Railway) track is 240 miles in length; its path is virtually identical to the interstate system connecting those cities. 4. What is the present regional railway pattern and how much traffic does it handle?
The route runs from Harrisburg, PA, through Roanoke, VA, Bristol, TN, Knoxville, TN, Chattanooga, TN, Birmingham, AL, Meridian, MS, and New Orleans, LA, paralleling interstates I-81 to I-40, to I-75, to I-59.
The other line runs from Washington, DC, through Charlottesville, VA, Greensboro, NC, Charlotte, NC, and Atlanta, GA, paralleling US 29 to I-40, to I-85, to I-20. The two lines meet in Birmingham.
The present rail transport share is only 8% of market capacity.
5. How would local feeder lines between Murphy and Asheville tie into these?
Lines between Murphy and Asheville are primarily excursion, but could be tied together as a functional network to replace the Corridor K interstate proposal; however, many curves and grades challenge its competitiveness. A better model would be to tie the smaller towns to the existing network via short lines.
6. What are the barriers and limitations which prevent local lines from being viable for commercial transport?
Terrain, condition of track, loss of old rights of way, replacement of pulled-up track, economics (not enough freight transport to justify the expense), and winding inclines. Ideally, freight trains must go 67 MPH to be competitive with trucks that travel that speed.
7. Doesnt the Wilbur Smith report strongly point to the needs for a Corridor K highway?
Wilbur Smith was a consultant funded by electric utilities companies to push for a new highway which could feed their investment. A representative of the ARC has publicly stated that the future for freight shipment is clearly by rail, and that truck transport only makes sense when it is intermodal with the railroads.