Town may not close railroad crossings

Published 7:39 pm Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The proposed closings of two railroad crossings in Thorsby may not occur, Mayor Dearl Hilyer said.

The town initially looked at closing the Baggett Road and County Road 623 crossings — a move that would require a service road to be built connecting the two roads. But this idea is not too popular with nearby property owners.

Closing the Baggett Road and 623 crossings would funnel traffic down to the Georgia-Pacific plant entrance, which could cause traffic problems, Hilyer said.

“We’re worried that we may be setting ourselves up for a lot of traffic issues without a traffic signal to control it,” he said.

For one, log trucks cross the site every day going to and from Georgia-Pacific.

Also, school buses cannot safely stop between Highway 31 and the railroad because there is not enough space to accommodate a bus. The rear portion of the bus hangs out over the tracks. For this reason, buses pulling onto 31 must wait until traffic clears before crossing the tracks.

“There’s a huge safety factor when you drive a school bus,” Hilyer said. “You get that [situation] at just about every one of our crossings.”

Fred Honeycutt, who owns property where the proposed service road would be built, is against closing the crossings. He said his property is not for sale.

“Population’s increasing, and more people are having to cross, and we need wider crossings and more of them. We do not need any of them closed,” Honeycutt said Wednesday.

Not only is population increasing, but a future Thorsby school could be located on County Road 37, on the backside of the plant. This would create even more traffic in the area.

The alternative to closing the crossings? Crossbars and lights, Hilyer said.

Town leaders hope the Alabama Department of Transportation can secure signals for the Baggett and 623 crossings.

After meeting with ALDOT officials, Hilyer said this project could start as soon as the latter part of the first quarter of 2010.

But nothing’s official yet.

“None of this has been officially signed off on,” Hilyer said.

The town is moving forward with a plan to move the Industrial Park Drive crossing north between County Road 71 and the entrance road to Chilton County’s Solid Waste Transfer Station.

The ultimate plan is to secure signals and crossbars for all of Thorsby’s railroad crossings, as well as those between Clanton and Thorsby and in Jemison.

The state has set aside $5 million for the railroad crossing project.