Thorsby railroad project in motion

Published 7:11 pm Friday, July 15, 2011

CSX employees assemble the cross arms and warning lights to install at crossings in Thorsby.

Work has begun to add long-promised railroad crossing arms in Thorsby.

After a four-year delay, seven crossing arms — two outside the town limits — are being installed in a project funded by the Alabama Department of Transportation.

Former Thorsby Mayor Tom Bentley first contacted the state for help with the railroad crossings in February 2007. The project was made a priority after many collisions between cars and trains at crossings without gates.

Since 2001, 14 railroad accidents have occurred in the city limits and one outside. Seven of those accidents resulted in fatalities, three inside Thorsby’s city limits and four outside, said current Mayor Dearl Hilyer.

In fact, Thorsby qualified for funding to pay for the crossing arms due to its high number of accidents.

“Each year the railroad sets aside $5 million to spend in an area that is at high risk, and … when we had back-to-back fatalities and accidents, we were the high risk area for that year,” said Hilyer at a town council meeting in February.

Everyone with the project hopes the gates and warning lights will cut down on the number of accidents.

“You receive more protection with the arms coming down, it gets people’s attention — maybe save somebody’s life,” said Bruce Trumline, signal maintenance manager for CSX.

Seven railroad crossings will receive new equipment.

A crew of five CSX employees and Trumline are working on the project that is expected to be complete in approximately two to three months.

Hilyer was last informed the project was on CSX’s schedule to begin the first week in August 2011, but with Hilyer’s determination and the help of others the date was pushed up.

The most recent train-related crash occurred when a pick-up truck and train collided Wednesday, March 2 at the intersection of Franklin Street and U.S. 31.

The truck’s occupant escaped major injury.

“I hope this stops any future fatalities or incidents because one fatality is one too many,” said Hilyer. “This project is the safest way we know to do it without a bridge over the tracks or a tunnel under it. Still with the arms, you have to stop, look and listen.”

Locations where the new crossing arms and lights will be added are: Baggett Street (three crossings), Montgomery Avenue, Franklin Street, Jones Street, County Road 45, County Road 29 and Lomax Drive (County Road 81).