Sunday, January 21, 2018

Railroad impact has minimal benefits for Columbus

The articles concerning the impacts of Montana Rail Link in Stillwater County included many statistics but did not mention any benefits to the county.
Except for the property taxes received, it appears to me that there are none.
Trains pass through the county, but do not stop to deliver or receive any cargo. The grain elevator in Columbus has been demolished because the railroad does not want to bother with single carloads of grain.
This is the result of the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 which included a provision to allow railroads to charge differential freight rates, rather than a flat distance rate.
By taking full advantage of that provision, the railroads have caused the closing of grain elevators which were incapable of loading multiple rail cars in a short time and therefore were charged much higher freight rates.
Rapelje and Molt elevators were unable to compete and lost their ability to ship grain by rail when the branch line tracks were torn up.
So, unless the Staggers Act is revisited to require railroads to provide better service, residents of Stillwater County will have to be content collecting the tax revenue and just watching the trails roll through.

Doug Campbell
Rapelje