Voice of the people: Allen Pepper

January 28, 2014 10:56:10 AM



KCS makes case for closing of Southside railroad crossings 


The Dispatch's recent editorial, "Time for railroad to do the right thing," was misleading in saying that "[T]he railroad said through a prepared statement it is waiting for the city to contact them." 


KCS' actual statement to The Dispatch was, "Recently, Kansas City Southern participated in a public hearing. To address the 12 KCS crossings in Columbus, KCS proposed a plan to close six of the 12 crossings. The remaining six crossings would be resurfaced and have flashers and/or gates added in partnership with the state of Mississippi. The state and KCS are waiting on a response from the city." 


In short, KCS and MDOT made a formal proposal at the public hearing to improve crossings and help the city move toward a quiet zone. KCS and MDOT never got an answer.  


Three important points: 


1.Railroads don't establish quiet zones. Municipalities must, by applying to the FRA and providing for the supplemental warning devices needed to allow silencing train horns. Closures help with quiet zone approval. 


2. Railroads don't determine crossing warning levels. The state DOT does. 


3. Railroads do contribute to the cost of both through maintenance going forward. 


Columbus has 12 crossings within 1.6 miles; nine within .8 miles. Ten have crossbucks and two have flashers. Ten trains operate daily over these crossings.  


KCS and MDOT's many discussions with city officials led to a plan to close six crossings and flasher/gate/resurface the remaining six, while providing the city $300,000 toward costs of signage and quiet zone establishment. Traffic counts indicate none of the remaining crossings would be overburdened with traffic by crossing consolidation. City officials in 2007 thought a similar proposal had merit, but never held a public hearing. 


Absent a plan such as KCS and MDOT proposed, MDOT isn't planning to upgrade the warning devices at these crossings. 


KCS maintains the surface between the tracks; the roadway authority maintains the approaches. KCS is willing work with the roadway authority on surface issues, but that alone uses available funds without any progress on increased warnings or a quiet zone. 


Traffic patterns have changed. Most agree some of the crossings are unnecessary. Approval of crossing closures would benefit everyone, through additional warning devices and possibly a quiet zone. The KCS-MDOT plan is about the future and making Columbus safer for the public. 


Allen Pepper 




The writer is public safety director for the Kansas City Southern railroad.