Steep grade crossings a coast-wide concern - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Steep grade crossings a coast-wide concern

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) -

Safety concerns over steep grade railroad crossings have been an issue for years, and it's not just in the City of Biloxi. The potential danger of those crossings extends coast-wide.

Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie understands the issue. His city has been the scene of multiple steep grade hangups and accidents over the years, including one that happened just hours before the fatal crash in Biloxi.       

There's not a single railroad crossing in Long Beach that's considered safe for 18-wheelers or other large, low clearance vehicles.

“This is an ongoing problem. This is not just on occasion. This is actually even more than in the past. It's getting to be more times this happens,” said Skellie. “I think because the tracks are higher, and the ones that used to miss it now are getting hung up.”

Skellie said when CSX improves or restores crossings, that can raise the elevation of the tracks, even if it's just a few inches.

“In doing so, you put about 15 or 20 years of that together, you're continuing to raise the crossing, and you're creating a situation where it hangs up,” he explained.

It happens more often than you might think, 18-wheelers or large vehicles getting stuck on the railroad tracks. In fact, just two hours before the deadly bus collision in Biloxi, an 18-wheeler loaded with lumber got stuck on the railroad track at Nicholson Ave. in Long Beach.

“It bottomed out and got caught on the tracks, the legs that come down from the trailer, and it was just dead in the water,” said resident Billy Carpenter, who lives near that intersection.

The driver called police, and police dispatch alerted CSX to warn them about the truck stuck on the tracks.

“It seems like it does happen fairly often. So far this year, we've already had three 18-wheelers stuck on the tracks here in Long Beach,” said Police Chief Wayne McDowell “Last year, there was six.” 

Skellie remembers one bad incident on the tracks in November of 2004.

“It sounded like Jeff Davis Ave. exploded when a locomotive hit a low boy with a track hoe on it, which actually derailed the train,” Skellie recalled.

A quick check of WLOX News Now archives found several cases of vehicles getting hung up on the tracks in Long Beach. A car carrier got stuck at Cleveland Ave. and the railroad tracks this past September. That same month, a tractor trailer loaded with lumber got stuck at the railroad tracks and Richards Ave.

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