Public hearing on RR crossing closure tonight
by David Atchison
PELL CITY — During a called meeting tonight, the City Council is expected to consider a resolution in support of closing the 20th Street railroad crossing.

The meeting is set for 7 p.m., following a public hearing the city and the Alabama Department of Transportation are jointly holding for public comment.

The public hearing is set to start at 6 p.m.

“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 notice for the 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 of the 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, the rail safety coordinator for ALDOT, said two accidents have occurred at the 20th Street South railway crossing in the past five years, including one fatality.

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

He said a driver was killed in 1994 in a train collision at the 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 live south of the railroad tracks said the 20th Street South crossing is the most used access 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 the community.

In August, the city and ALDOT organized a public hearing about the possible closure of the 20th Street railroad crossing before city attorney John Rea made city and state officials aware that residents were not properly notified about the public hearing. The meeting was stopped and rescheduled for tonight.

Contact David Atchison at datchison@dailyhome.com.

© 2012