RR crossing hearing set for Nov. 1
by David Atchison
PELL CITY — A pubic hearing about the possible closure of the 20th Street South railroad crossing is set for Nov. 1.

The Alabama Department of Transportation and the city are holding the hearing in the council chamber at City Hall.

The meeting is set for 6 p.m.

In August, a public hearing was abruptly ended after city attorney John Rea told state officials they erred with public notification of the meeting.

Nobody from the community adjacent to the railroad crossing showed up for the public hearing, prompting officials to stop and reschedule the meeting at a future date after proper public notification is made.

In August, Rea told ALDOT officials, who organized the meeting on behalf of the city, that state law requires public notification in newspapers for three consecutive weeks prior to the scheduled public hearing.

Rea said the hearing in August was only advertised for two consecutive weeks, and the state and/or city could not move forward. The August hearing was stopped only minutes after it was officially opened for public comment.

ALDOT has now rescheduled the hearing for November.

“The purpose of this meeting is to ensure that any interested parties have an opportunity to provide input regarding this project and share their views and comments regarding potential impacts,” the new notice for the November public hearing states. “The hearing’s format will be an informal session. No formal speeches or presentations are planned. Interested parties may arrive at any time (between 6-7 p.m.) during the meeting schedule. Representatives from ALDOT will be available to answer any questions relative to the project.”

Two years ago, Norfolk/Southern Railroad officials said railroad companies were tasked to eliminate redundant crossings.

Officials said the elimination of railroad crossings would help prevent train collisions that result in injury or death.

Clarence Hodges, rail safety coordinator for ALDOT, said two accidents have occurred at the 20th Street South railroad crossing in the past five years, including one fatality.

“There haven’t been a whole lot of accidents there,” Hodges said.

He said a driver was killed in 1994 in a train collision at the railroad crossing. There was another recent accident in March, but nobody was injured.

There are three railroad crossings in the same proximity along First Avenue South, the 19th, 20th and 22nd Street crossings.

At a 2010 hearing about the matter, residents who lived south of the railroad tracks said the 20th Street South crossing is the most used access by residents into and out of their neighborhood. Some residents suggested that there would be less impact for the neighborhood if the 22nd Street crossing was closed instead.

Some residents said emergency workers enter and leave their neighborhood through the 20th Street South crossing, and there are many elderly people who live in that community.

Residents also said the 19th Street access to their neighborhood can tear up a vehicle, so there is already limited access into their community.

Contact David Atchison at datchison@dailyhome.com.

© 2012