published Monday, December 10th, 2012

Bradley eyes closing the Old Weatherly Switch Road crossing closure between Cleveland and Cohutta, Ga

Bradley County commissioners are expected to resume discussion on Norfolk Southern's request to close the southernmost railroad crossing on Weatherly Switch Road in southeast Bradley County.
Bradley County commissioners are expected to resume discussion on Norfolk Southern's request to close the southernmost railroad crossing on Weatherly Switch Road in southeast Bradley County.
Photo by Tim Barber.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley County commissioners will continue today their review of a Norfolk Southern proposal to close a railroad crossing at Old Weatherly Switch Road on the rail line between Cleveland and Cohutta, Ga.

County officials, who have been considering the closing since mid-November, recently heard opposition from the daughter of Mary Thomasson, whose 10-acre property would be split by the closure.

"The other residents of the area have admitted that this would just be an inconvenience for them if they had to drive around," said Olivia McLaurine. "For my mother, or whoever owns the property in the future, it's going to create hardship."

Norfolk Southern wants to close the crossing because there is another one less than 1,000 feet away on state Highway 317.

Closing the crossing would make the rail line safer, Norfolk Southern spokesman William Miller told local officials last month, while driving to the other crossing on Highway 317 will take less than two minutes.

But McLaurine said five acres of Thomasson's land lies across the tracks. It's low-lying and can't be used for much besides pasture. When her father cultivated the land, he used the railroad crossing to get to the property.

If the crossing is closed, McLaurine said, she wants the county to assist in providing private crossing access, citing a similar situation on a piece of nearby property known as the Old Dunn Farm. According to McLaurine, the railroad has maintained that crossing for at least 50 years.

Commissioner Terry Caywood said that it was his understanding that Norfolk Southern did not plan to create new private crossing access points.

McLaurine said the proposed crossing would affect her 81-year-old mother and a neighbor across the road because their driveways will become traffic turnarounds.

"It's going to change her lifestyle from being unafraid and peaceable to afraid and very concerned," McLaurine said.

The proposed closure could bring the county up to $45,000, according to county commissioners and county road department officials.

Norfolk Southern, in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, is willing to pay $30,000 to go forward with the closure. And the county could save up to $15,000 if it does not have to make drainage-related repairs to the crossing, officials said.

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