Railroad Lawsuit Filed

At least one lawsuit has been filed in George County Chancery Court against Mississippi Export ailroad's decision to close rail crossings. Mac Rouse, owner of Deep South Nursery in Agricola, is among residents who claim they cannot now reach their homes, businesses and property. Rouse said his property has been landlocked since April when the crossing off Mississippi 613 was closed.

He said he lost more than $100,000 in land and plants. Mississippi Export offered him a 20-foot easement to access the property from a side road, but Rouse said the easement isn't large enough for a tractor-trailer to enter the property. ``If they treated people fairly, they would have had somebody out here fixing another road,'' Rouse said. ``Even if I could get an 18-wheeler through the easement, they should've had me fixed up before they removed the crossing.'' Rouse is the only property owner who has filed legal action.

Local residents said as many as 15 crossings already have been removed from a stretch of tracks on Mississippi 613. Company President Greg Luce said in a prepared statement that the railroad removed the crossings in the interest of public safety. ``It is only being done where the people can have or be provided other means of accessing their property safely,'' Luce said.

Homeowner Bob Lamb, 57, said several months ago, he walked out his front door to see a sign that said the crossing that gives him access to his home would close in 30 days. Lamb now has to use a neighbor's crossing, then drive down a ditch alongside the tracks to get to his house. ``Technically I'm breaking the law every time I go home,'' he said. ``I also lost a business when I lost the crossing. I had hoped to reopen the store and gas station my family owned next to the house.''

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)