Blocked crossings causing complaints
Railroad tank cars containing LPG-liquefied petroleum gas-block South Main St. in Plymouth
Photo: © Don Howard/Associated Newspapers of Michigan
May, 2, 2016 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
“We are indeed aware of the issues in Plymouth.”
CSX Railroad spokesperson Gail Lobin
While motorists have been fuming at the delays caused by trains blocking various roadways in both Plymouth and Canton, officials throughout the area have expressed concern regarding the impact the situation could have on emergency response times.
Last Friday, Plymouth City Manager Paul Sincock said that he had just sent another email notifying the fire department of a roadway blocked by a train, something that has become a familiar condition during the past week. CSX Railroad spokesperson Gail Lobin said that the company is aware of the recent blockages and traffic delays in Plymouth.
“We are indeed aware of the issues in Plymouth,” she said last week in response to questions about the inordinate number of complaints received regarding blocked crossings in the Plymouth-Canton community.
Plymouth city officials, who say they have no control over the railroad operations, issued several prepared press releases during the past weeks confirming stalled trains and blocked intersections, causing traffic delays and congestion. Area residents say the long delays are unusual, unreasonable and possibly dangerous considering the hazardous materials that regularly traverse the community utilizing railway transport.
Canton Township Emergency Planner Kathy Rich said last Friday that the crossing at Haggerty Road north of Van Born was completely closed and was expected to remain impassable for at least 24 hours.
“The rail needs repair,” Rich said.
Delays in Plymouth were blamed on a change in service.
“The issues (in Plymouth) were a result of some operational changes in how we service local customers. During this time we were, and remain, in contact with local officials and local businesses,” CSX said in a prepared statement following inquiries regarding the traffic impediments.
Lobin said that earlier in the week the company implemented some infrastructure improvements including the installation of an air-pump system. She said that CSX safety personnel were in Plymouth to “observe first hand” how the new equipment is operating, and that the situation appears to be improving.
“While our community and safety lead was in Plymouth, he spoke with the town manager (sic) who indicated that no new complaints from constituents were received this week. We attribute this to the improvements that were implemented on Monday. We will continue to monitor the new operation plan and systems and will continue communicating with town officials,” she added.
Contrary to those reports, Sincock denied any contact from the railroad officials and stated he is still very concerned about the ongoing delays and said complaints from upset area residents are still being received.
“One other thing I’m very concerned about,” Sincock said, “is pedestrians looking for ways to cross the tracks of the stalled trains-walking down the tracks. This is very dangerous.”
Sincock said that he had received a phone call from someone at the Federal Railroad Administration who said they “were working with the CSX on the problem.”
CSX operational policy requires that trains be broken into two parts whenever a blockage is expected to continue for more than 10 minutes. Last week, when an afternoon westbound train blocked the Ann Arbor Trail-Haggerty Road intersection at the same time it was blocking south Main Street and Farmer, the train stopped before approaching the yard office at the Plymouth “Y” and cars at the end of the train were unhitched and left on a siding.
CSX trains communicate by computer and a sophisticated monitoring system, both centrally dispatched from Chicago, officials said.
“We apologize for the inconvenience this had caused to the community,” Lobin said in her response to the situation.
“The line is important to the entire region to balance the safe delivery of commerce. CSX is committed to working toward limiting the impact of our operations in the area.”