Gulfport now looking at 2010 before RR crossings close

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A CSX spokesman says it will be another six months before it closes eight railroad crossings in Gulfport.  First, the company must make sure every other crossing in the city has warning lights, bells, and crossing arms.

Gulfport asked CSX to close the crossings at 18th Avenue, 29th Avenue, 31st Avenue, 32nd Avenue, 40th Avenue, Woodward Avenue, Ruth Avenue and Hardy Avenue last September.  The tracks at those intersections were considered redundant, or they weren't equipped with safety devices to prevent cars and trains from colliding.

The 40th Avenue railroad crossing is temporarily closed, so road crews can complete infrastructure work in west Gulfport.  Drivers better get used to the detour, because 40th should be permanently closed by CSX, MDOT and the city of Gulfport sometime after the new year.  Those agencies have worked together to negotiate a deal that reduces the number of train track crossings in the city.

"If they've got to close it, I understand," said Gulfport resident Charles Hormanski.  "But they need to make a walkway or something for the kids."

Hormanski lives directly across from the 40th Avenue crossing, and just two blocks from West Side Park.

"I've lived here 45 years.  And that's how we've gotten to the park and to the beach is 40th Avenue," he said.

Also on the list of Gulfport crossing closures is Woodward Avenue.  Because of a sink hole problem, that crossing was recently torn up.  Since it's already out of service, CSX said it will never be reopened.

Ruth Avenue and Hardy are the other west Gulfport crossings slated to be closed.

Four downtown crossings will be shut down as well.  Eighteenth, 29th, 31st, and 32nd Avenues will become off limits to cars and trucks.

However, none of those crossings will be blocked off until CSX improves the warning systems at 25 other intersections across this city.  A CSX spokesman said modernizing crossings would cost about $2 million.  And he said that work would take about six months to complete.

In the last year-and-a-half, the Federal Railroad Administration has documented eight car train collisions in Harrison County.  The report said three of those accidents were fatal.

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