Meeting planned to address train problem

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -  For years, those who live and work in the Birmingham neighborhood of Collegeville have been held captive by trains that run through the area.   But now a proposed flyover will bring some relief.  The money for the project is in place.  But before construction begins, Birmingham city council woman Maxine Parker wants to first have a public involvement meeting.  It will be held tomorrow, Thursday, July 23, 2009 at the Bethel Baptist church from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.  Representatives from the Alabama Department of Transportation will be present along with design consultants.  They will explain the maps and scope of the project.  But Parker says she also wants to hear what residents have to say.  ""We want to hear any concern they have," Parker adds.  "Whether it's problem spots, moving the map over, whatever they feel.  It's important we know what they want."

Those who live and work in the area say the trains, operated by Norfolk Southern and CSX, are a huge problem.  They complain that the trains can sit on the tracks for up to hours at a time, blocking exits and entrances to the neighborhood.  They say this is especially concerning when emergency vehicles must come in.  In 2000, a couple lost their lives during a house fire.  Fire officials say crews could see smoke billowing from the home, but were unable to get to it because of a train.  Others say the trains being left on the tracks have caused people to be late for work, which they claim has resulted in job losses.  They also say children have gotten hurt jumping through box cars in an effort to be on time to the nearby Hudson Middle School.

As for the Finley Flyover, Parker says it will be completed in three phases.  The first phase would run from 26th street to F.L. Shuttlesworth Drive.  She says that would cover about half of the trains that run through the area.  Phase one is scheduled to be finished in 2012.  Parker says phase two will run from Shuttlesworth Drive to 27th Avenue.  Phase three will run from 27th Avenue to Tallapoosa Street.