Georgia cops ticketing trains that block traffic

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PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. -- A $713 parking ticket is a lot for anyone - even the railroad.

Norfolk Southern has been racking up those tickets for blocking traffic through Port Wentworth. Police Chief James Melvin says his officers are writing them at a rate of about three a week.

"We can't put a wrecker on it and tow them off," Melvin said. "(Fines) are pretty much the limit of what we can do to them."

With the Ga. Highway 25 viaduct over Norfolk Southern's rail lines in downtown Port Wentworth shut down, gridlock is becoming unbearable in the west Chatham municipality, commuters and public safety officials say. The problem is that when Crossgate and Grange Roads are blocked by trains, drivers trying to get in and out of Port Wentworth are stuck - and they stay stuck.

According to Port Wentworth police reports, trains often are blocking traffic for 20 minutes or more.

Although there is some question as to whether federal laws protecting interstate commerce allow Port Wentworth to legally fine the railroad, Norfolk Southern has been paying the tickets, Melvin said.

Trains running back and forth across at-grade crossings may frustrate commuters, but Norfolk Southern spokeswoman Susan Terpay said they are critical to port business.

And business is booming.

In late October, Terpay said, Norfolk Southern doubled the number of trains going in and out of the Georgia Ports Authority's intermodal transportation facility, where containers unloaded from ships are put onto trains for land shipment.

Those containers are loaded onto train cars on short tracks, about 2,500 feet long, which are hooked up to a departing train one track at a time. The problem, according to Terpay, is that trains end up being as long as 10,000 feet and Crossgate Road is only 5,000 feet from the Port. By the time the second set of cars is hooked up, the road is blocked.

The same trains that frustrate drivers are keeping Savannah's economy vibrant, Terpay said. Norfolk Southern started running two trains in and out of the port, instead of one, because the recovering U.S. economy brought increased traffic in and out of the Port of Savannah during the last three months of 2010.

"These trains are on a tight time schedule to arrive in Atlanta, where each of the freight cars are, based on destination, switched to trains that depart from Atlanta to cities located throughout the United States," Terpay said.

That timetable often is at odds with commuters' schedules. Trains typically are built between 6 and 9 p.m., said Joel Harrell, Norfolk Southern vice president of government relations.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has begun an $11.7 million project to help cope with the increased train traffic. The DOT is building a land bridge over railroad tracks at Ga. 307 to accommodate the ports authority's plans to install more tracks in the area. Ga. 307 runs parallel to Crossgate Road, about 1.5 miles south of Crossgate.

The Ga. 307 viaduct is expected to be complete in March 2012. An 80/20 split of federal and state dollars is funding the project.

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old49er
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old49er 02/06/11 - 07:50 am
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And what do the fines

And what do the fines accomplish? Just more money for the town of Port Wentworth to spend, it doesn't do anything to alleviate the traffic problem. The solution is simple. Have the railroad stop loading the cars in the port of Savannah and take the business elsewhere, to Charleston, Wilmington or Jacksonville. Then the economy of Savannah will suffer, but no worry, they can live off of the traffic tickets they have been writing. How long will that last?

microprill
2
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microprill 02/06/11 - 08:13 am
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i wonder if we can do tht in

i wonder if we can do tht in Augusta

Martinez
154
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Martinez 02/06/11 - 08:16 am
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Evans to Lock road

Evans to Lock road immediately comes to mind.

HistoryBuff
0
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HistoryBuff 02/06/11 - 08:57 am
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And Old Evans Road & Baston

And Old Evans Road & Baston Road. Are you listening Columbia County Sheriff's Department????

Riverman1
90604
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Riverman1 02/06/11 - 08:57 am
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Giving them tickets does as

Giving them tickets does as much good as the wino on the corner directing traffic does.

microprill
2
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microprill 02/06/11 - 09:00 am
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2words: Kick Backs

2words: Kick Backs

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 02/06/11 - 10:54 am
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Tickets are a good start. I'm

Tickets are a good start.

I'm waiting for the wrongful death lawsuit when a person dies because a train blocks every road downtown preventing an ambulance from reaching a hospital.

jrbfromga
445
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jrbfromga 02/06/11 - 11:01 am
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Whoa! It is my understanding
Unpublished

Whoa! It is my understanding that in almost all instances, the trains were there first, and certainly before the local farm road became a suburban throrofare. Additionally, any enforcement of those parking fines will be a costly federal case, since the trains are a form of interstate commerce.

jrbfromga
445
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jrbfromga 02/06/11 - 11:04 am
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Insider, forget the wrongful
Unpublished

Insider, forget the wrongful death crap. My father died of a heart attack because all of the ambulances with defribillators were at a public drill "mock disaster". I was told that there was no cause of action because it was all for the "greater public good".

Fiat_Lux
16245
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Fiat_Lux 02/06/11 - 01:20 pm
0
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Stop lallygagging on the land

Stop lallygagging on the land bridge and get it finished this year instead of March 2012. And schedule the train building for 3 to 6 am instead of 6 to 9 am. There are ways of dealing with this problem.

curly123053
5161
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curly123053 02/06/11 - 02:08 pm
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Fiat_Lux, that requires a

Fiat_Lux, that requires a common sense approach to the problem and we both know that government knows very little using common sense.....When I started working EMS in 1980 I remember when we had an emergent transport to an Augusta ER the old Augusta P.D. officers would stop and break the train so the ambulance could keep enroute to the hospital. This was for only the true "life and death" emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes, major traumas and CPR in progress. Then in the 90's they decided the trains had the right-a-way even if the patient's life was in imminent danger. I can remember sitting at the railroad crossing on 13th St one night with a serious heart attack patient waiting for the train to go by. While there an Augusta FD truck came screaming up trying to get to a fire. They finally turned their lights off and turned around to go back to their station while another station further away responded to the fire. When they gave commerce priority over 9-1-1 and life and death that was a serious mistake to me. Thank God Augusta now has St. Sebastian now to get past the crossings, but just think of places like Port Wentworth. I wonder how many lives were lost when the trains got priority over people lives in Augusta? I wonder how many will be lost in Port Wentworth before it's fixed there? Does the railroad really care?

TheGeorgian
432
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TheGeorgian 02/06/11 - 03:15 pm
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Gives new meaning to being on

Gives new meaning to being on 'the wrong side of the tracks.'

misskitta
0
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misskitta 02/06/11 - 08:29 pm
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I have heard some of the guys

I have heard some of the guys at Norfolk Southern laughing about blocking the tracks. Makes them feel important. Many times it is not necessary just lazyness or getting overtime for delays.

toscgwsndiqz
0
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toscgwsndiqz 10/24/11 - 06:17 pm
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Problem has been solved: the

Problem has been solved: the State of Georgia is doing another study. I think this will be #5............

"Study identifies choke points caused by Ga. ports expansion"

http://savannahnow.com/exchange/2011-10-19/study-identifies-choke-points...

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