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This $10M project will bring cleaner air, job stability to Middle Georgia, officials say

Federal grant helps bring five eco locomotives to Macon rail hub

Mark Duve with Norfolk Southern talks about an eco locomotive the company at using in Brosnan Yard in Macon. The railroad company welcomed guests and media to view one of the five eco locomotives Wednesday.
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Mark Duve with Norfolk Southern talks about an eco locomotive the company at using in Brosnan Yard in Macon. The railroad company welcomed guests and media to view one of the five eco locomotives Wednesday.

New locomotives at Macon’s giant Brosnan Yard rail hub have big implications for health and jobs in Middle Georgia and Robins Air Force Base.

The yard received its first Eco locomotive about a year ago, replacing decades-old engines that towed freight cars around the yard tracks. The yard now has six Eco locomotives with lower pollution emission, plus three “slugs” used to provide weight for traction.

The program cost $10 million, said Mark Duve, manager of locomotive engineering for Norfolk Southern. Federal and state funds secured by the Middle Georgia Clean Air Coalition accounted for $6.3 million.

Norfolk Southern and Middle Georgia officials held a dedication for the new locomotives Wednesday. The engines are painted in a distinctive green and black color scheme with an emblem showing the state of Georgia, highlighting Macon.

“The beautiful thing and I’m so proud of it, is they are dedicated to stay here and work here, to clean up the air here,” said Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert Reichert as he stood on one of the engines.

The coalition sought the grant because of a determination that Brosnan locomotives are significant polluters. The locomotives used in the yard are typically retired from regular use, but still could stay in service for decades more to be used for light duty at the rail yard.

The Middle Georgia Clean Air Coalition sought the grant funding as an incentive for Norfolk Southern to get the Eco locomotives, which are older locomotives fitted with new, more efficient engines.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s only air quality sensor in Middle Georgia is located near Brosnan Yard. The sensor is used to determine whether the area is in compliance with clean air standards.

For years, the area has only marginally been in compliance with the standard. Non-compliance can hurt efforts to bring new jobs to Robins Air Force Base and it could harm other economic development efforts, local officials say.

According to a release, the EPA estimates that in the first six months of operation the Eco locomotives reduced particulate matter emissions by a rate of 3.44 tons annually, while nitrogen oxides were reduced by 100 tons. Particulate matter and nitrogen oxides are associated with smog and acid rain.

“We’ve come a long way with these locomotives,” Duve said. “Together we found a solution to reduce our emissions.”

A “slug” is locomotive with the engine removed, so it has zero emissions, but weight is added to provide traction as the locomotive tows cars. An Eco locomotive and slug paired together replace two older locomotives.

Approximately 40 trains per day come in and out of Brosnan and it handles approximately 11,000 cars per week. The yard employs about 100 people.

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