Railroad Repairs Slow Down Highway 49 Drivers

A Gulfport police officer stood on Creosote Road and yelled to a driver, "Go northbound." North is the only way drivers can go. Barricades temporarily block the busy Creosote Road/Highway 49 intersection. And they'll stay there until a railroad track replacement project is done.

The barricades make it impossible for cars to make left turns at this intersection. So when an RV tried to get to the beach, the police officer said, "Go northbound. Make a u-turn. Go all the way back down this way."

The green light will stay on for Highway 49 traffic during this one month construction project. Access to places like Prime Outlets or McAlesters is available via Airport Road. But some cars ignored the detour. They cut in front of oncoming traffic.

"We're concerned about it," Gulfport police officer Mike Easton said. "And we're doing everything we can to keep traffic flowing. But we can't be here all the time. Because not only is 49 going to be detoured somewhat, but also Three Rivers, Creosote, and Airport Roads. We have a large area with a limited number of people to enforce."

The police presence is necessary because of new railroad construction. MDOT and Kansas City Southern Railroad are working together to reconstruct the bumpy crossing on Highway 49. The work will be done in three sections. And it will keep one lane of traffic closed for about four weeks.

Here's why. After crews hammer the new tracks to the new wooden ties, the section behind me will be pulled over here to Highway 49 and placed in an orange spray painted area. The new tracks will replace the old tracks -- tracks that have made Highway 49 anything but a smooth ride.

Each day, an estimated 60,000 cars ride over the Highway 49 railroad crossing. MDOT officials say repairing the tracks is long overdue.

by Brad Kessie