Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor Tells CSX to Reopen Crossing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mayor Tells CSX to Reopen Crossing

Article excerpt

Mayor John Delaney's office issued an ultimatum yesterday to CSX Transportation: Either reopen an illegally closed railroad crossing in Northwest Jacksonville or face legal action.

"I'm giving them 10 days to get started or I'm turning it over to the General Counsel's Office," said Sam Mousa, interim chief administrator at City Hall.

The crossing at Old Kings Road between New Kings Road and Edgewood Avenue has been closed for more than two years.

But CSX officials said yesterday the crossing should remain closed permanently because it's dangerous. The tracks -- actually five separate lines including one on which passenger trains can reach speeds of 40 mph -- serve the company's adjacent Moncrief rail yard and are a major hub in its Jacksonville operation.

"From a national perspective, this is a big-time issue," said James Schultz, vice president and chief safety officer for CSX. "The intent [of the closing] was to protect those residents."

The major safety concern is the mix of high-speed and low-speed trains at the crossing, coupled with frequent track switching activity at the yard, where cars are hitched together.

Several accidents -- some severe, although none fatal -- have occurred over the years, Schultz said, as people on foot or in cars have tried to get around lowered warning gates to beat oncoming trains. Many don't realize that a slowly moving train on a near track can obscure the approach of a fast-moving train.

Mousa said building an overpass in the area would be preferable, but he didn't think the danger at that crossing was sufficient to keep it closed while one is built. He said if CSX wants to close the crossing, it should go through the usual procedure to get approval from the city and state.

CSX spokesman Mike Tolbert said the company closed the crossing temporarily in August 1998 to do maintenance work. When the work was finished three months later, the crossing was simply left closed, and the company never tried to get the agreement from City Hall and the state to do the closing legally, Tolbert acknowledged.

"That was wrong," he said. "We shouldn't have done that."

Residents who used the crossing in the Grand Park and Paxon Woodstock neighborhoods feel burned by CSX's decision. …

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