On Thursday we received an email from Casey’s mother letting us know that while the baby is now safely delivered, Casey is currently in the hospital due to complications. The mother was bringing the baby home after visiting Casey in the hospital, however — once again — a train is stopped on the tracks and who knows when the train will be moved — in one hour or 12.
I had already known the train was there, because it blocked my usual route into work, forcing me to take an alternate route from the Reeceburg Road crossing. And on Sunday night, when my husband and I were returning home from seeing family, a train was stopped and blocking our route home.
You see, this is an ongoing issue that really needs to be addressed. The Hall Road residents have it the worst, since they have no access to an alternate route. However, those who live on Reeceburg Road also face these non-rolling road blocks on a much too frequent basis.
I see this as more than a mere inconvenience. The fire department that services our area is on the other side of the tracks, and uses this crossing as their most direct route for their emergency calls to homes in our area — which includes the Lakeview subdivision, Doyle Road and more. From what I understand from a current railroad employee and from a phone call I made to 911, the railroad does not advise our local emergency services when the road is blocked. If there should be a life-threatening emergency or house fire — where minutes mean the difference between life and death, having this crossing blocked — and emergency personnel having to take an alternate route when they discover it blocked — could surely mean the difference between life and death, or a total loss. In fact, that same railroad employee told me the railroad had already paid a settlement in the past year to a man’s family in Suwanee after he died from a heart attack and EMT’s couldn’t reach him due to a railroad crossing being blocked by a stopped train.
The railroad added to a side-track along Reeceburg a number of years ago that was supposed to prevent this type of problem, but trains are either now too long to fit, or they are not stopping far enough up the track to clear the crossing. Many times we’ve seen where, if they had stopped 100 feet up (and we saw they had the track to do so) they would have cleared the crossing.
While building a back access road for Hall Road, as the county is discussing, will be a much needed help for those residents, it will still just provide a partial solution. It will also be several years down the road before the plan comes to fruition.
When I noticed the increase in frequency of train blockages over the past few years, I did a little research and came across a number of news stories of other areas in the state suffering from the same issue — from Calhoun to Atlanta to Savannah.
I suspect that the railroad companies will do nothing to correct this growing problem as long as the settlements for loss of life and property are cheaper than the solutions to the problem — such as building side tracks that do not cross roads or having a set length for trains so they don’t exceed the available free “holding” space for the route while waiting out other trains. I also don’t believe they will pay much attention to a county complaint here and there, but if the our state legislators become involved, maybe they’ll listen ...
Amy Knowles is the night editor and editorial page content manager for Rome News-Tribune.