AL community steamed over years of train track blockages - Montgomery Alabama news.

AL community steamed over years of train track blockages

(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Linord Hare has lived in the Calhoun community in Lowndes County for the more than 60 years. While he said he's seen his area go through a number of changes, one thing has always existed - a train track that runs along County Road 37.

“It’s been a problem since I’ve been living here, but it’s getting worse,” Hare said.

The trains that run on that track have a tendency to stop for hours at a time, keeping the residents from being able to pass. Residents say this issue occurs multiple times a month, though mostly on Fridays and Sundays.

Hare and his neighbors said the only other way to get out of their neighborhood is to take a dirt road they said lets out in Fort Deposit.

“It’s a long dirt road,” Hare said. “It’s long…miles and miles. Most of the people who live on this end have to go back and forth to work. They have to drive on that dirt road, and the dirt road is tore up. It’s just a hazard to us.”

Shelia Searight said in the last 12 years she has been late to work at least 10 times because the train blocked her access to the main road.

“Every time I am late, I get a half of a point,” Searight said. “It is very frustrating.”

Searight said she was late one of the times because she got into an accident taking the alternative dirt road.

“I was trying to miss a deer and swerved off the road because it is so narrow,” she recalled.

She said there is also very little cell service, making it difficult for anyone who gets into any trouble to get in touch with someone for help.

Both Searight’s husband, Spencer, and Hare said they have contacted CSX Transportation, the company that owns the train and track, to address their concerns.

“They would tell us, 'We know the train is there, and the train will be gone in the next 30-40 minutes,'” Spencer Searight said. “It would leave 12 hours later.”

CSX Spokesperson Robert Doolittle provided a statement concerning this issue: 

“CSX works to minimize the impact of our operations on neighboring communities while also striving to provide excellent service to our freight customers. In Letohatchee, trains sometimes pull into a siding track to safely allow other trains to pass by on the main line, and recent congestion on the CSX network in Alabama has caused some trains to stop longer than usual. While wait times have improved recently and should continue to improve, CSX apologizes for the inconvenience this may have caused our neighbors. Our goal is to keep freight moving safely and reliably to customers, and we’re committed to keeping an open line of communication with neighbors when issues like this emerge.”

However, the Searights, Hare and a number of their neighbors say they have actually noticed an increase in wait times.

“For example, the train will stop at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and won’t leave out until two in the morning,” Spencer Searight stated.

Another woman in the neighborhood, who did not want to give her name, said her brother suffered a heart attack a few years ago, but the ambulance she called was unable to get to them because a train was stopped on the track. The woman said the ambulance drivers must not have been aware of the alternative dirt road because it goes so far out of the way. Luckily, a family member was able to drive her brother to a hospital on the dirt road.

Searight said nearly 30 households are impacted when a train stops on the track. Many neighbors had stories of being late to work, missing school, and children having to walk through the train and all the way home because the school bus was unable to cross.

The Searights said they have reached out to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and that a deputy came to the scene of a stopped train earlier this month.

WSFA 12 News reached out to the sheriff’s office. The person who called back said they had never heard of this issue. WSFA 12 News is still waiting on a return call from the sheriff.

In the meantime, Shelia Searight said her biggest fear is for a life-threatening emergency to occur and residents not being able to get to help in enough time.

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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