Crossing safety project moves forward

Published 10:51 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2008

THORSBY – Drivers that travel between Lomax and the north end of Thorsby may soon notice changes at railroad crossings in the near future.

Last week, a team from CSX was doing preliminary field work for installing signals with gates and lights. The crew surveyed the corridor between County Road 81 in Lomax to County Road 71 at the north end of Thorsby as part of an ongoing project to improve safety at railroad crossings along the corridor.

Tony Harris with the Alabama Department of Transportation said this project is an example of how a city can come together and provide more safety for its residents.

“The city leaders and everyone involved with the project have been unified,” he said. “We are all trying to get something done to create a safe corridor from Clanton to Thorsby.”

Mayor Tom Bentley said construction on the project could begin in a couple of months.

“We will probably see the signals with lights and gates go up before the roads are constructed,” Mayor Tom Bentley said.

The project proposes to close crossings at County Road 235, County Road 233, County Road 623 and Baggett Road, but all of the remaining crossings would be upgraded to have gates and lights.

Before any crossings are closed, Thorsby Mayor Tom Bentley said all of the necessary access roads would be built, linking them to crossings that are fully protected with gates and lights.

“We won’t close anything until we get these roads built,” he said.

For the County Road 235 crossing, an access road will be constructed to connect it with County Road 29.

The County Road 233 crossing already has access to 29.

County Road 623 and Baggett Road will have access roads built to the crossing in front of Georgia Pacific’s main entrance. By doing this, Bentley said they could eliminate what has caused five wrecks involving tractor-trailers in the last five years.

“Those trucks are going to Georgia Pacific’s main entrance on Highway 31,” Bentley said. “The have to cross the tracks twice just to get into the mill. If we get this access road built, then they never have to cross the train tracks at all.”

Bentley said this construction could open up areas of the town to additional business – including a possible industrial park.

“Right now, there’s no way to get to that land, but building these access roads would open up that area for growth,” he said.

The only other crossing that will undergo major changes is the road connecting Highway 31 and the Chilton County Solid Waste Authority Transfer Station. The current crossing is located in an unsafe area. That crossing would then move to where County Road 71 intersects with Highway 31, and it would be fully protected.

The remaining crossings including Franklin Street, Jones Street, County Road 29 and County Road 81 would then be upgraded to have both gates and lights.

This is the first railroad safety corridor project that Harris has been associated with in his five years with ALDOT. He is glad someone is taking advantage of this program.

“Most of these crossings that we are upgrading would have taken decades to get lights and gates,” he said. “Now they will get them within a year.”

Bentley talked with CSX workers last week when they were surveying the crossings.

“One of them said this was the first time he had seen a long list of crossings on one work order,” Bentley said. “This is a once in a lifetime chance to get all of these crossings fixed.”