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NMPD Chief Cecil Addresses Train Blockage Concerns

January 30, 2019
BY ED PARSONS & TELINA FRYE - STAFF WRITERS (EPARSONS@TYLERSTARNEWS.COM) , Wetzel Chronicle

New Martinsville Police Chief Tim Cecil said he has had enough of railroad crossing blockages impeding the flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic through New Martinsville. He said CSX trains sitting idle at the crossings for long periods of time is not only a nuisance, but a safety issue that breaks the law. He hopes to enforce that law.

The problem has been a long-standing event for motorists on Route 2, resulting in long traffic delays on the main artery through the community. Complaints in the past have centered around emergency vehicles being unable to get to sick or injured persons. Everyday individuals complain they miss deadlines, appointments, and work starting times. Others affected include school buses, delivery personnel, fire trucks, and postal workers. Many residents say they have voiced their concerns and complaints, but to no avail.

Recently, with the increase in rail traffic, the downtown area of New Martinsville has fallen victim to the problem. Referencing the affect on emergency response, Chief Cecil reiterated the problem is much deeper than an inconvenience.

Article Photos

Photo by Ed Parsons
Area residents have expressed frustration with railroad crossing blockages impeding the fow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic through New Martinsville.

"Last week we had a long train on the tracks that held up all seven access crossings to the downtown section of New Martinsville," Cecil said. "There were long lines, which brought traffic to a standstill as far back as Rt. 2. This one train stood still for nearly 20 minutes and then moved for a few seconds. It stopped again and never started rolling for over an hour."

"We can't have that; our downtown area includes the community college, many local businesses, the Wetzel County Court House, the sheriff's department, the magistrate office, our main fire department and City Hall. This has now turned into a safety hazard, which could be declared an emergency. We have to have open access to all areas of the community," stated Cecil.

On Jan. 25, Cecil's office started receiving call from people inquiring why the train was blocking traffic. Cecil noted delivery people, who couldn't make their rounds, turned and left. He said another person who had gone to the store for necessities was stuck on the river side for an hour-and-a-half.

"I called CSX and was told they were stopped because individuals were trying to cross the trains, and they couldn't move the train for that reason. I had my men scout the area and clear the tracks of people. We relayed that back to CSX and were then told they were inspecting the brakes. I asked why they didn't go to the rail yard for that, but I received no answer," Cecil added.

Cecil said officials tried to rectify the matter two to three years ago when CSX was accused of frequently blocking the Route 2 crossing. Cecil explained many meetings were held at that time, and currently, he is trying to organize a meeting with local and state officials. "We need to find a workable solution to this mess before it escalates into a bigger problem. Right now we've been fortunate not to have an incident which requires emergency or first responders. If that happens we could have a disaster of major proportions."

The chief is also concerned that a serious accident will happen due to the frequent crossing blockages. He gave the example of how drivers will try to rush through a traffic signal when the light is yellow. He said drivers try to beat the crossing gates when they come down, warning of an impending train, because they are concerned about how long the train will be idle at the crossing.

He said he was told by CSX officials that the crossings could be closed or built over. "We are not closing the crossings and there is not enough money to build," explained Cecil. "All I'm asking for is a little courtesy from them, and for them not to choke us off."

Cecil added if a train is blocking the pathway of first responders during an emergency, CSX is contacted. If the train does not clear the crossing, CSX can be fined. He noted the fine for that is $1,000, which he stated is a very small amount compared to the value of citizens' lives.

The chief said he has no problem with long trains as long as they are continuously. "It's when they are choking us off, and we can't conduct business that irks me. Keep moving and do your maintenance and repairs out of town. I really don't understand the reason for stopping and holding everything up."

Cecil said he has issued over 70 citations to CSX during the past few years. He commented he's not sure whether the company has paid the fines or not, as the magistrate office handles the citations.

However, Cecil said the citations do not seem to have any affect on the issue, to which he is seeking a resolution.

According to County Commissioner Lisa Heasley, the commission is well aware of the problem. She said the commission has worked, in the past, with all parties involved. She noted Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Haught has tried to achieve cooperation with the railroad and has sent letters and levied fines.

"The state has performed studies in the past, but no one has been back with us since their track sitting times have lengthened," Heasley said. "I, too, am a downtown resident who sits for over an hour waiting. An ex-railroad employee told us at a meeting last year that it only takes two minutes to break the rail cars apart. That alone should be done for the safety of everyone."

The Wetzel Chronicle has reached out to local and state representatives along with CSX for comment.

 
 
 

 

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