Derailing the New Market Intermodal Facility

A bill has been filed that would derail plans to locate an intermodal facility in New Market. Norfolk Southern has proposed the facility on farm land between Andrew Johnson Highway and its track between Knoxville and Morristown. The proposal has received strong opposition from locals via an organization call Jefferson County Tomorrow, which supports intermodal development but argues for an existing brownfield industrial site rather than taking green space.

A bill by state Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, would forbid state and local funding being used for a facility on Class I, II or III farmland as designated by the U.S. Agriculture Dept. The New Market site is some of the richest farm land in Jefferson County. The stricture would only apply in counties that are rated as "non-attainment" for air quality by the Environmental Protection Agency, and Jefferson County is one. The bill forbids only public funding of such projects, not private industry spending.

Meanwhile, the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance has designated the New Market site one of its most endangered places in the region. The Alliance is mostly concerned with preserving historic buildings, but included the farmland as an example of saving shrinking rural areas and scenic vistas.

The bill may have enough votes to move in the House, but its chances in the state Senate are unclear.