ATLANTA — A new push in the U.S. Senate could help families who are blocked off by trains, stuck on tracks in their communities. A neighbor in Southwest Atlanta’s Adair Park neighborhood told Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Sophia Choi trains are sitting on the tracks, blocking Allene Avenue for days. Kimberly Walker told Choi, “the places where you can actually cross over are about half a mile” in one direction. So, many choose to risk their lives by cutting through the train cars.
Neighbors told Channel 2 Action News many are trying to get to the West End MARTA station, work or daycare. That same situation turned deadly in 2017. Channel 2 Action News reported then, a man died once a train started moving while he was crawling under the cars.
Data from the Federal Railroad Administration shows Allene Avenue ranked fifth for the number of complaints about stopped trains in Georgia. The agency received 185 complaints about blockages on tracks in Fulton County in the last twelve months. Henry County had the most complaints at 311 complaints.
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Resident Pouya Dianat explained another issue telling Choi, “Even when there is a crime or something that police or emergency services need to cross over, they can’t All of our crossings are blocked.”
Senator Jon Ossoff pushed a bipartisan bill to give local communities money in order to address crossing issues like local communities are seeing. He’s also demanding the Federal Railroad Administration make changes. “I’m going to continue to push them to improve the performance of the systems they use to monitor railroad crossing blockages and to receive reports of those blockages from folks in Georgia”, said Sen. Ossoff.
For years, Channel 2 Action News has reported on the Allene Avenue crossing train blockages. The complaints extend into other communities too. One track in Northwest Atlanta’s Hunter Hills neighborhood is seeing the same problem.
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Allan Zarembski worked in the rail industry for nearly fifty years. He now runs the rail safety program at the University of Delaware. Zarembski told Choi the industry wants to keep trains moving, but sometimes can’t. “A lot of times trains are stopped because there’s something ahead of it and you don’t want the train moving forward and smacking the train in front of it.” He continued, “Telling the train to move when it’s unsafe to move, to me, is not the answer.”
Norfolk Southern owns the Allene Avenue track.
A company spokesperson told Channel 2 Action News, in part: “Over time, as localities grew, they began installing roads across the tracks. Frequently, when we see recurring crossing issues, it’s because a community constructed a crossing within a siding – quite literally, a place designed for trains to park. Our teams work hard to minimize the length of time we may have to occupy a crossing.”
If you have a complaint about a train crossing, you can file a complaint with the railroad association here.
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