A potential nationwide rail worker strike could cause railroad crossing blockages
TRUSSVILLE, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s happened to many of you: getting stuck behind a stopped train at a railroad crossing, and Trussville city leaders worry it may start happening more.
If railroad worker unions can’t come to a contract agreement with major rail road companies, there could be a nationwide rail worker strike by the end of this week. Experts said that could cause shipping delays, grocery store shortages and higher prices. But city leaders said it may also cause dangerous roadway delays.
“We were given a heads up that this could happen as soon as Friday,” Trussville Mayor Buddy Choat said. “This could create a big problem for us, depending on how many workers are still available.”
A shortage of workers means less trains traveling and when conductors hit their max time for the day, they have to stop. Choat said a strike means it could be days before the train moves again.
“If they stop in Trussville and they’ve got two of my crossings blocked, it takes a while to get the other crew out there in a normal situation , but if they are shorthanded, it could be hours and days before they get out there.”
Choat said he is mainly worried about public safety because police and fire need access to neighborhoods on both sides of the tracks with no wait time. He said they have seen an improvement in the number of times trains are blocking the crossings, but they usually estimate around 30 minute blockage delays.
“Most of those are time sensitive and when we go a different route than we normally have to go, if it adds 2, 3, 4, 5 minuets, and that’s life or death in some instances,” Choat said. “It also effects are local businesses too, when we have blockages in our downtown area, it puts a tremendous amount of strain on those businesses just to get customers in and out.”
He said with school back in session, a strike could cause more headaches for parents.
“School busses is a real challenge for us if there is a blockage,” he said. “But, also just people trying to leave their home at a normal time for work, not knowing if the train is there, it’s a challenge.”
Choat said he spoke with the city’s Norfolk Southern railroad representative and they have heard of the potential strike and said they’ll work closely with the city if there is any increase in crossing blockages.
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