Rail crossing risks in Chickamauga

Rail crossing risks in Chickamauga

August 20th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Motorists pass the railroad crossing on Five Points Road in Chickamauga, Ga.

Motorists pass the railroad crossing on Five Points...

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

Busiest rail crossings by total vehicle traffic

  1. County Road 220/Five Points Road, Chickamauga
  2. Amnicola Highway north of Judd Road, Chattanooga
  3. Riverside Drive near Old Curtain Pole Road, Chattanooga
  4. Broad Street north of West 33rd Street, Chattanooga
  5. Broad Street north of West 32nd Street, Chattanooga

Source: Chattanooga Regional Freight Study

A rail crossing in Chickamauga, Ga., has been named the region's busiest intersection for trains and traffic, but officials say there are very few issues with the location.

But next door in Dade County, that's not the case, and local officials are drafting ordinances to fine rail companies that block traffic.

The Chattanooga Regional Freight Study, developed by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County/North Georgia Transportation Planning Organization, shows 63,300 cars and trucks cross over the tracks at Five Points Road in Chickamauga. The study also indicates two trains rumble past the asphalt each day.

The study notes that rail crossings around the region could see more trains -- and more delays for motorists -- with new trains moving parts and vehicles at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

Chickamauga City Manager John Culpepper said the line in Chickamauga already supplies a Shaw Industries plant, Mount Vernon Mills denim production and a timber company, so VW traffic should not cause any excessive impact.

As it is, he's not aware of any issues with the crossing and was surprised to know it's the busiest one around.

"There's no outcry about trains stopping traffic," he said.

There are crossings in Ringgold, Ga., where 200-car trains can keep drivers waiting 15 minutes, but the study did not rank any Ringgold crossings in its top 10.

Randall Magnuson worked at the Chattooga-Chickamauga Railroad Co., which operates on the line through Chickamauga, for 21 years before he retired as general manager in 2009. He's very familiar with the Five Points Road crossing.

"There is quite a bit of traffic there, but I'm not aware of any problem," he said.

Drivers in Dade County aren't as lucky.

On Friday at 4 p.m., Dade County Executive Ted Rumley was trying to find out more about a train blocking a road near Trenton's industrial park. At the park, trucks had already been waiting an hour and a half for the train to move.

"They're just sitting there," Rumley said.

One day this summer, a train sat across a Dade road from about 2 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the next day, he said.

Attempts to reach officials with CSX and Norfolk Southern were unsuccessful Friday afternoon.

Rumley said rail traffic has increased on the Birmingham-Chattanooga line running through Trenton, Ga., and the average train length has gone from 105 cars to 150.

County commissioners in Dade recently adopted a new ordinance that would fine railway companies that leave trains blocking roads for more than 10 minutes. Trenton is considering adopting a similar ordinance, Rumley said.

"You're just trying to turn a light on with them to show them we're serious," Rumley said. "It'll lead to fines."