Thursday, Decemeber 13, 2007
Supervisors hammer away at overpass needs
By SUE WATSON
The Marshall County Board of Supervisors and Industrial Development Authority, in an early December meeting, discussed ways to get railroad overpasses at Byhalia and Potts Camp to ease long waits at the tracks due to stopped trains.
School buses, commuters and service workers are inconvenienced with waits still clocked at over 30 minutes, members of the board and the county administrator noted. But most of all, the overpasses are needed in case of a crisis on either side of the tracks, said supervisors Keith Taylor and Ronnie Joe Bennett of Districts 3 and 5, respectively.
Although Rep. Tommy Woods and board attorney Kent Smith have lodged concerns with Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) about long and illegal train stops at railroad crossings in the two towns, train engineers have not gotten or heeded the message to move off the intersections for traffic every five minutes, supervisors said.
IDA director Bill Renick offered some hope that money for a bypass at Byhalia may be forthcoming.
One supervisor suggested BNSF should be concerned enough to agree to put some money in the pot to help build overpasses.
Renick believes momentum is building in the state to construct some overpasses. But he said local players may have to step up to the plate.
He thinks there’s a chance the state will help with the proposed overpass at Byhalia.
“If we’re lucky enough to get one paid for by the state, we may need to do the one at Potts Camp, even if it requires innovative financing,” he said.
Smith argued the railroad should help pay for overpasses rather than wait for lawsuits and accidents to bring the matters forward.
Taylor said more trains are running on the tracks now than ever and the cost of overpasses should be included in the cost of doing business by the railroad.
“They can’t keep adding more trains and not help,” he said.
“I suggest you ask the railroad to pledge money to go with the state dollars (to build overpasses),” Smith said.
“It’s going to be a shame if it takes an accident or failure to get services across the tracks (to get the overpasses),” Taylor said.
County administrator Larry Hall reported that long lines of vehicles and school buses stack up on both sides of the track at Potts Camp in the mornings.
“Basically, it’s an issue with the railroad company,” he said. “They need to step up to the plate.”
“Or somebody’s going to die,” said Bennett.
He said he is still angry with being asked by a Mississippi Department of Transportation official for fatality data as a means of justifying an overpass at the Potts Camp railroad crossing.
At the board meeting this week, attorney Kent Smith told supervisors Burlington Northern Sante Fe did respond to a letter he wrote to them regarding blocking of the intersections.
“They have started to monitor some of those and acknowledged the county and cities needs,” Smith said. “They want a list of data - the times of day and lengths of times (the tracks are blocked) and will try to rectify it. Some of it is not under their control. I now have a direct contact and will continue to follow this up. BNSF acknowledged the county’s formal complaint.”
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