Congresswoman asking for federal safety study on stalled trains in B'ham metro

Government working to prevent stalled trains in Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - We get calls often about stalled trains around the Birmingham metro. It's impacting residents and first responders. Many people are tired of seeing the boxcar barricades in their communities. We took their concerns to federal officials.

Last month, a Norfolk Southern train sat idle on the tracks for almost a day just off 15th Place Southwest before it was moved to a rail yard. The situation caused truck driver Brandi Ramsey to lose money.

"Those are the only ones large enough that I can make wide enough turns, any other street I'm just stuck. I can get out because the train is literally blocking my only exits," Ramsey said.

It's also impacting first responders. We spotted an ambulance trying to navigate its way through the neighborhood looking for a clear route across the tracks.

Jefferson County Commissioner Sandra Little Brown is tired of the on-going problem. She organized a meeting this week with train officials. Brown has been told the train companies need to park their trains with supplies because of the economic demands in the county and around the country.

"Federal government, someone needs to send orders down to stop Norfolk Southern. These and other companies from blocking these crossings," Brown said.

We took the community's concerns to Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell.

"This is a serious public safety issue. The blocking of the trains have become a little more heightened because of increase in interstate commerce which is a good thing but it is definitely affected the ability of folks in communities across Birmingham," Sewell said.

Sewell recently sent this letter to the committee on transportation and infrastructure asking the government accountability office to perform a safety study on the impacts of trains blocking communities. Sewell says now is the time to do something about these boxcar barricades.

"Specifically what can local communities do? What can local and state governments do when these blockages occur? And what are the outcomes in terms of public safety? I think this is not just an issue that isolated to us. It's an issue that's affecting all across the nation, but it is an issue that we need to get on top of," Sewell said.

Norfolk Southern tells us the amount of traffic moving by rail is at all-time high levels. The company says its making changes to its operations to hopefully relieve some of the congestion across its rail network which spans 22 states. We'll be watching for progress.

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