Track Upgrades Are On The Way

The Mississippi Department of Transportation will pay for improvements to six railroad crossings in Long Beach and Gulfport. CSX railroad will perform the $835,000 worth of work, which includes installing new signals and new gates at the crossings.

"It will probably take a year to 15 months to upgrade the crossings, but it will be time and money well spent,'' said Southern District Transportation Commissioner Wayne Brown. The projects are part of MDOT's railway safety program, which is funded with federal money. In the last three years, about $1 million has been spent to improve coast railroad crossings.

MDOT and CSX are also completing a plan they hope will close about 50 of the coast's 144 rail crossings. Once the plan is completed, MDOT and CSX will negotiate with cities to try to close crossings. ``Bay St. Louis and Waveland have already indicated they would agree to some closures if we would upgrade the rest of the crossings, the road surfaces and signals,'' said Butch Swales, assistant rails division engineer with MDOT.

At least 12 people have died in train-related accidents on the Gulf Coast since January.