Council Leadership and City Officials meeting with Railroad Company to discuss prolonged delays
Following the situation that unfolded this past week with several trains blocking intersections for prolonged periods of time, Council President Wardine Alexander along with President Pro Tem Crystal Smitherman met virtually with representatives with Norfolk Southern (NS) to discuss the issue.
Also on the call were Transportation Committee Chair Darrell O’Quinn and Director of Transportation James Fowler. Together the delegation discussed how the City and railroad companies can avoid this from happening again as well as establish contingency plans for the future.
There are nearly 10 miles of double tracks that run through SW Birmingham, primarily in Districts 6 and 7 that transport goods throughout the city and surrounding areas. According to NS representatives, these recent blockages were due to several converging factors including: supply chain issues, increased manufacturing and pandemic-related staffing shortages that were exacerbated by federal vaccine requirements.
“We just want accountability for situations like this that pose an enhanced risk to public safety. Our meeting with Norfolk Southern was very productive and I believe there is a mutual understanding of how serious this situation is,” President Alexander said. “It’s my belief that there will be contingency plans put in place to prevent a situation like this from occurring again.”
In order for traffic to be cleared as a result of a stalled train, regulations indicate a 600-foot gap must be created. President Pro Tem Smitherman said residents need to be informed right away when blockages like this occur.
“Part of the contingency plan needs to include alerting residents of when a train is blocking the road for an extended period of time and when they can reasonably expect that road to be cleared,” Smitherman said. “This poses a threat to public safety and communicating this to people living in these areas needs to be paramount.”
The Council’s Transportation Committee along with the Mayor’s Administration will continue to meet with NS representatives in the coming months to develop sustained measures to eliminate these type of problems.