Residents Speak Out About Proposed Railroad Closings

Some Pass Christian residents aren't happy about a proposal to close four railroad crossings in the city. The closings are being proposed by CSX and the Department of Transportation.

Residents questioned the need to close the crossings at a public hearing Tuesday night.

"When you say safety, what safety are you talking about, just the railroad and not peoples lives. That's my concern," Seal Avenue resident Regina Dailey said.

Railroad officials and representatives from the Mississippi Department of Transportation got an earful from Pass Christian residents, over their proposal to close up to 4 crossings in the city. CSX officials say it's a question of safety, not just here, but all along the Gulf Coast.

"Harrison County is the 3rd leading county in the nation with regards to fatalities at grade crossings," CSX Public Safety Manager Joe McMahon said.

But residents say there are other safety issue they're not taking into account in targeting Seal, Hiern, Market, and Clarence Avenues in Pass Christian.

"It floods on the North side of the track and it floods from Oak Park to Davis Avenue. And when it does that, with the railroad crossing closing at Seal, that means everybody off all 4 of these streets going across one track," Dailey said.

They also site the need for emergency vehicles and school buses to have access to crossings. Access that they say will be more limited on the city's already very narrow streets.

"When you close one your shutting some people off from normal way of going and coming to work and places so, we've got a problem," said Leo "Chipper" McDermott.

After discussing the matter the Board of Aldermen agreed to allow the Planning Commission to study the matter further. But weather they recommend closing these 4 streets, 4 others, or none at all, the final decision ultimately rests with State Transportation Commissioner's who could make the decision for them.

"And we don't want to do that. We're doing everything possible to work with the city to increase the safety of the traveling public," said Butch Swales the Assistant Rails Division Engineer.

CSX and MDOT Officials plan to meet again with City Officials on August 3rd.

If their current proposal is approved, the remaining crossings will be upgraded with warning lights and crossing arms, at no cost to the city.

By: Don Culpepper