Chilton County Railroad Crossings Could Close

Five people died at a Thorsby crossing in February. Less than two weeks later, another fatal accident just up the road. Mayor Tom Bentley says enough is enough. He says, "We put up signs warning people to stop."

When new warning signs didn't help, Mayor Bentley approached the railroad company and the department of transportation. He proposed closing some crossings in exchange for upgrades at others. He says, "If we had lights and gates, it can't help but save lives."

The DOT said close nine crossings including three in Thorsby, two on the edge of town and four in Jemison. "I just don't see how it's going to work," said Jemison Police Chief Brian Stilwell.

Stilwell and the city of Jemison sent letters to the DOT opposing the closings. They say it would funnel all crossing traffic to one location and create a dangerous situation. "It's going to be more difficult with the increase traffic to get across. If a train is blocking that crossing, which it has in the past, there is no way to get across," says Stilwell.

Stilwell says businesses would suffer, too. "We have a car business that would have to move and an ambulance service that would have to move," says Stilwell.

The mayor says his town has a plan to make sure closing the crossings won't inconvenience townspeople.  He says, "Anytime you can eliminate a hazard, it's a good thing."

Department of Transportation officials will decide on each crossing individually after taking public input at town meetings. They say public opinion will weigh heavily on their decisions. Those meetings are still to be scheduled. By the way, the Chilton County Commission is also on record opposing closing the two crossings in the county.