Local News

February 18, 2014

Whitfield residents seek information on railroad plans

Lamar Gazaway isn’t convinced that the railroad crossing at Redwine Cove Road needs to be closed.

“I’m 79 years old,” Gazaway said. “I’ve lived there since back when it was a little dirt road. I’ve crossed there many times, and I don’t recall any vehicle getting hit there.”

But Redwine Cove Road is one of four unsignalled crossings -—including those on Baker Road, Henry Owens Road and Postelle Road — on the south end of Whitfield County that could be closed under plans by the Georgia Department of Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railroad. In addition, the crossing on Midway Road would be upgraded, including the installation of signals, and an access road linking the other roads to Midway would be built.

Among the information presented at the meeting was data on the number and types of vehicle-train collisions at each of the intersections going back at least a decade. The data indicated that all of the intersections have had at least one collision, and some of them have had multiple collisions.

Several dozen people turned out at Valley Point Middle School Tuesday evening for a public meeting on the plans.

“Some of these ideas are very preliminary, and this gives people who live in this area and drive on those roads a chance to give us their input,” said Richard W. Harris, corporate communications director for Norfolk Southern.

Officials said that they received a variety of input.

“Many people have just been asking questions. They want to know how it will affect them and their property,” Harris said. “Some have said something like this has been needed for a long time, and others have been skeptical.”

Harris said the Atlanta-to-Chattanooga line is one of Norfolk Southern’s busiest lines and traffic on that line and across the eastern United States is expected to climb in coming years as widening of the Panama Canal leads to increased activity at eastern ports, including the Port of Savannah.

Whitfield County Engineer Kent Benson said those who live in the area aren’t likely to see changes soon.

“The Georgia Department of Transportation will be doing the design and the environmental impact studies,” Benson said. “That will take some time, then they’ll likely have to acquire some right of way before then can even begin the work.”

Benson said it could be years before the work begins.

Benson said there are no estimates yet for the cost of the project. The Georgia Department of Transportation will pay for the design, environmental studies and construction, and the county will pay for any right of way acquisition, he said.

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