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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2007
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CSX wants to close 1 crossing in Falkville; residents object

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

FALKVILLE — The Second Street railroad crossing here has been closed since Jan. 3 when a southbound CSX train smashed into a tanker truck caught on the tracks and tore out the signals.

The railroad would like to permanently close the crossing, said Jim Cain, a CSX regional coordinator, during a public hearing before the Falkville Town Council on Tuesday night.

But there were no takers among residents who spoke, including three businessmen — Jim Grissom, Wayne Appleton and Charlie Rogers — who say the crossing is vital.

"I've been in business here since 1964, and I'd like to see the crossing stay open," said Grissom. "The town is moving forward and getting into the 21st Century. When you start closing things down it doesn't make you look too good."

Parent Connie Puckett said the crossing is vital for students traveling from the east side of town to the schools on the west side and that it is the safest crossing. She said there would be more wrecks on U.S. 31 and Morgan County 55 if the crossing closes.

The crossing is the middle of three crossings in town. The others are at Morgan County 55 (East Pike Road) and Main Street.

Cain, a former locomotive engineer, said safety is the driving force behind CSX's appeal.

"We're running 32 trains per day through town, and we're getting ready to increase that number to 50," he said. "In an accident, you'll lose you're loved ones and our crew will lose their sanity."

Cain said there had been four fatalities at the crossing. A resident reminded him that three came in one accident.

"It was 1978," said Councilwoman Bonnie Thompson. "I remember it well. One of the victims was my brother-in-law."

Cain also said the Federal Railroad Commission has a mandate to close 25 percent of crossings across the country.

While the council can make recommendations on the crossing, only the Alabama Department of Transportation has the authority to close it.

Mayor Jimmie Walker said the council will consider the issue at its next work session April 24 and decide then whether to put it on the council agenda for the May 1 meeting.

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