Who is responsible for crossing at railroad intersection?
Published 11:45 am Monday, April 20, 2009
By by Lisa Tindell and Kerry Whipple Bean
An 2006 Alabama Department of Transportation study found that a railroad crossing gate on Deer Street in downtown Brewton would likely protect motorists and perhaps save lives.
If so, three years later, why has no crossing gate been added to the intersection?
The three parties involved in the project — the Alabama Department of Transportation, CSX railroad and the City of Brewton — have given conflicting explanations for why the proposed project fell apart.
The controversy surrounding the absence of the railroad crossing bubbled to the surface earlier April 6 when a CSX train collided with a log truck, catapulting logs into the nearby First Exchange Bank. No one was injured — on the train, in the truck or in the bank — but FEB president Dan Thomas said it caused thousands of dollars in damage to the bank.
And it left witnesses wondering why the intersection has no crossing gate, while a gate with flashing lights sits a few hundred yards away at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Alabama 41.
Thomas said he believes a crossing gate would have prevented the April 6 crash.
Witnesses said the log truck was trying to beat the train, and the driver was cited for failing to obey a train signal. The vehicles were headed in opposite directions.
In the wake of the crash, ALDOT, CSX and Brewton officials have offered conflicting reasons for the lack of a crossing gate at the intersection.
City officials said the project was in the hands of CSX, but a CSX spokesman said approval for the project was the responsibility of ALDOT.
Rebecca Leigh White, public affairs representative for the department of transportation, said department engineers had conducted a survey in 2006 and determined a gate at the crossing would be beneficial.
But the project is out of ALDOT’s hands, she said.
Information about any follow up discussions between Brewton and CSX officials was never forwarded to ALDOT, White said.
Brewton Mayor Ted Jennings said the final decision was left in the hands of CSX officials.
Jennings said the city has always pushed to have crossing gates at the location in question, but has no authority or ability to install the system.
But CSX officials said the ultimate authority rested with ALDOT.
Sullivan said CSX would install a crossing if given permission by the state department of transportation. Once permission is granted and funding allotted, CSX can install the appropriate device, Sullivan said.
Jennings said city officials would welcome revisiting the idea of a crossing.
Conducting business with the front window boarded up at First Exchange Bank, Thomas said he is grateful no one was injured in the log truck accident. But he hopes a crossing gate will be erected soon.