published Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Norfolk Southern proposes to close a Bradley County crossing

The southern most railroad crossing on Weatherly Switch Road in southeast Bradley County, Tenn., may be closed soon.
The southern most railroad crossing on Weatherly Switch Road in southeast Bradley County, Tenn., may be closed soon.
Photo by Tim Barber.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Norfolk Southern would like to close its railroad crossing on Old Weatherly Switch Road in southern Bradley County on the rail line between Cleveland and Cohutta, Ga.

Earlier this week, a railway representative met with county commissioners to discuss the proposed closure, including increased safety and financial assistance.

"Anytime that you can eliminate a railroad crossing, you effectively eliminate the chance that anything's going to happen there as far as a vehicle getting hit," said William Miller, manager of grade crossing safety for Norfolk Southern.

The railway would like to close the crossing because there is another crossing less than 1,000 feet away, on state Highway 317, also named Weatherly Switch Road, Miller said.

Besides the redundancy of a nearby crossing to the north, the targeted crossing also meets a low traffic volume threshold. The daily traffic count for the Old Weatherly Switch crossing is 110 vehicles, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation data gathered in 2008, Miller said. The Federal Railway Administration recommends railroads consider closing crossings that are used by fewer than 2,000 vehicles per day.

Miller said the biggest inconvenience would be for a residence just west of the railroad crossing. Instead of crossing the tracks and traveling east 500 feet to get to Highway 317, those residents would need to circle around to the highway by way of Blue Springs Road to the northwest.

That trip took "about a minute and a half, and I was poking along," Miller said.

Commissioner Adam Lowe asked whether there were any residential communities farther west of the crossing that might be used to access Highway 317 instead of Blue Springs Road.

Miller responded that Red Clay Park dominates the area to the southwest, and that the residential impact there likely would be minimal.

If the county decides to close the crossing, it stands to receive up to $30,000 in financial assistance, Miller said. According to calculations based on train volume and road usage, Norfolk Southern is prepared to contribute $22,500, with TDOT adding another $7,500 for the project.

That funding could be put toward resolving drainage problems that occur at the nearby Highway 317 railroad crossing, Miller said.

The Bradley County Road Committee will take up the issue soon, said Commissioner Mel Griffith, chairman of that committee.

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