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Board endorses ‘Steel Interstate’

Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved a resolution advocating fast rail freight and passenger service in the Southeast at its meeting, Thursday, July 23.

“Interstate 81 carries some of the heaviest truck traffic in the nation. … We’re trying to get trucks off the road and on the railroad,” Mayor Ralph McGill said.

The resolution particularly concerns the Interstate-81 corridor, which terminates north of Knoxville.

“This I-81 corridor would be a test case, I guess,” McGill said.

Alderman Bob Markli said the resolution was part of a “far-seeing, long range plan that is strategic to the United States.”

If implemented, the Steel Interstate, would “reduce the country’s consumption of diesel fuel by 500 million gallons a year,” Markli said. In addition, the removal of so much truck traffic would drastically cut down on area pollution.

The change in freight movement would be similar to the change the country saw when the Interstate highway system was implemented, he added.

“We’re reaching a critical point with the Interstates, where it’s not technically feasible to continue to widen them,” Markli said.

“I think it’s an excellent program and I certainly support it,” he added.

“This really makes a lot of sense,” Alderman Jeff Elliott said. “Common sense tells you we can’t keep doing smart fixes again and again and again.”

“I would love to see fast passenger rail service from here to anywhere, because we do have limited airline capacity and it is doubtful we’ll ever become a major hub,” Markli said.

“To be able to get on an 88-mile-an-hour passenger train at a reasonable cost … would seem a real benefit to the area,” he added.

The Board unanimously approved the resolution, which will be sent to Tennessee’s U.S. senators and representatives.


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