By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Cassells Road crossing to close
0408 train wreck
An accident at the Cassells Road crossing in May 2003 involving a train and a lumber truck killed two people, the truck driver and the train engineer. - photo by Courier file photo
Liberty County put up a good fight, but the railroad crossing on Cassells Road near the McIntosh overpass will close when construction on Highway 196 finishes.
And the permanent closing may have residents faced with dangerous traffic alternatives.
CSX Railroad started asking the Liberty County Commission to close the crossing soon after a May 2003 train-lumber truck crash at the site that left two people dead. The railroad renewed the campaign in June 2008 and again in November.
The county held steady for public access until January when an evaluation by the state Department of Transportation declared the crossing too dangerous and ordered it closed.
Closing the crossing adds other dangers, according to county officials.
“This is one battle we didn’t win, but we made our justification for the concerns of our citizens,” commission Chairman John McIver said. “Our standpoint was the safety factor for the residents living in that subdivision.”
Most residents in that area exit onto Highway 84 from the east side of the overpass.
Local resident Phil Odum attended a public hearing during the October commission meeting.
He explained the grade crossing is the only exit alternative if Highway 84 ever gets blocked, as can happen with accidents on the overpass.
“For my community and my neighbors it’s a disaster,” Odum said. “That’s a bunch of traffic and you’re going to disrupt that traffic.”
Odum, who lives west of the crossing, said the closing may benefit him, but two commercial buildings on the east side that will be affected.
Gary Sease, CSX spokesman, said some railroad grade crossings are needed.
“People do need a way to cross our tracks…but where there is a clear [case] of redundant crossing and risk factors present, we will appeal to local communities,” he said.
He thinks the overpass is adequate and eliminates the risk of crossing the tracks.
“We certainly understand the convenience factor because we deal with that often,” Sease said. “But at
the same time…the risks trump convenience, especially when the inconvenience isn’t significant.”
The crossing won’t close until the Highway 196 project is complete. Part of the project includes moving 196’s intersection with 84 east about a quarter mile.
“You’re creating a problem for those citizens, especially if you have elderly citizens living in that subdivision,” McIver said. “They’re going to have problems exiting on to 84, trying to make that left turn.”
It is the heavy traffic flow that has him worried.
“Especially with the number of trucks coming through that area, I wouldn’t want to be the one trying to maneuver out there,” McIver said.
After the 2003 collision, McIver said the county had an agreement with GDOT to have a warning gate put up at the crossing.
“We don’t want people hit by trains,” Sease said. “And that’s a real danger even though the industry works really hard…to raise awareness, nonetheless, collisions do occur and they are injuries and fatalities.”
“It’s a safety factor for them,” Odum said of the railroad. “It lessens their liability, but it’s also a great operating incentive for them.”
“There is a cost to maintain crossings, but it is the safety reason that motives us to work very hard to close as many crossings as possible,” Sease said.
Sease admitted the company also parks stationary rail cars on the tracks, but they are conscious of motorists’ view.
“We’re going to have to work something else to make it convenient for citizens to get back on 84,” McIver said.
Sign up for our e-newsletters