Trains Will Start Rolling Again Through South Mississippi

Before Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast, 35 trains a day rolled across the CSX railroad tracks through South Mississippi heading west.

"We lost everything. All of our signal systems and the active warning devices at the crossing plus our signal system alongside the track was completely wiped out or obliterated if you will, by the storm," CSX Regional Coordinator Robert Martin said.

In the next few weeks, the trains will ride the rails once again through South Mississippi restoring a vital shipping artery. CSX employees and contractors have been putting in overtime to get the rails back up and running again.

"We've now replaced everything one piece at a time from all the way across the Gulf Coast, from Mobile all the way into New Orleans."

Martin says CSX employees and contractors have worked day and night to get the track back to the way it was before the storm. But "the way it was before" isn't acceptable to some South Mississippians, who say safety shortfalls at various crossings lead to a number of deaths.

In the year prior to Katrina, there were 63 collisions with 10 fatalities and 22 injuries at train tracks across the state.

"If they wanted to put lights, gates and bells on every crossing, we couldn't do it. That comes under the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Department of Transportation. They make the call. They make the decision which crossings get these active warning devices and then they contract with the railroad to have them installed. It's not our call."

After more than four months without trains, Martin urges travelers to take extra caution at the crossings as the trains roll again.

"We've become creatures of habit, you know. And these habits have got to be good. And this way, if they take that extra safety second just to look, listen and live, at all these crossings, everybody would be better for it."