Trains present potential dangers for south Linden

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 23, 2005

LINDEN-Monday nights meeting of the Linden City Council featured a new face and an old problem.

To open the meeting, the council swore in new council member Mitzi Gates. Gates will take her seat on the council in place of Ivan Allday, who recently relocated and vacated his seat.

The council also addressed a problem they have been dealing with for quite some time. Each afternoon trains leave a crucial section of U.S. Highway 43 blocked cutting the city in half. The blockage has been known to occur for over 45 minutes, which leaves the south end of the city cut off from police, fire protection and ambulance service.

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City Administrator Cheryl Hall said the city had made contact with several entities to seek solutions to the problem.

“We have sent letters to both railroads and I have contacted Woodie to see what we can do,” Hall said. “We also contacted the Public Service Committee and they had a Railroad Safety Division. I sent them a letter last Friday and the guy called ma back and said he would be in contact with the railroad.”

Legally, the situation is tricky. Hall said through state and federal laws there seemed to be no easy answer to the problem.

“There is nothing legally we can do,” Hall said. “He said they realized they were switching up here and have been going back and forth on both tracks and that is what had caused the delay. Claims have been filed to them and he said he would contact them and try to relieve it some.”

Hall said the city had contacted Attorney General Troy King as well.

Council member Butch King pondered whether there was something that could be done locally to prevent the blockage. King asked if a city ordinance could speed things along.

“Is there no way we could pass a city ordinance to say they could not block the road?” King asked. “We need to do something to relieve some of this.”

Unfortunately, this idea also met many problems. City Attorney Woodie Dinning said an ordinance could be passed and enforced, but federal laws would override it.

“You can pass it, but because of Interstate Commerce laws it would be tough,” Dinning said. “You could pass it, but ultimately you lose.”

The companies have maintained for months a solution was on the way. However, the problem has continued.

Linden Police Chief Jeff Laduron said a plan is in place that could relieve the blockage, but it is not a quick one.

“They are going to build another leg of tracks,” Laduron said. “They hope that will relieve it, but that is going to take time.”