Local officials look for solutions in railroad problems

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HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) – Rep. Robin Smith, (R) Hixson held a meeting with state and local officials on Tuesday to discuss possible solutions to fix problems that happen at some railroad crossings.

“The problem is, is that because emergency communications has no information when a railroad crossing is blocking a road we cannot dispatch the emergency responder units appropriately,” Hamilton County 911 Communications Director John Stuermar said.

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That was one issue talked about at the meeting.

Officials identified Hamill Road as a priority.

It’s near a hospital.

Studies show that in over 10 years the amount of trains passing through that crossing a day has gone from around 50 to 75.

“We’re looking for short-term solutions and a long-term. We’ve got to spend some money and this is a big tough conversation that we want to have with TDOT, with the county and the city folks and really kind of get in the same boat, go in the same direction and row together,” Rep. Smith said.

Long-term solutions include a team effort to nail down state and federal funding.

State House Transportation Committee Chairman Dan Howell said at the meeting that lawmakers are trying to find a dedicated revenue stream for funding.

“There are grants available for bigger projects, but they’re very competitive. As I’ve said before there might be $800 million available and that sounds like a lot of money, but there’s
$8 billion in applications for those funds,” Hamilton County Railroad Authority Director Tim Andrews said.

Short-term solutions include systems that warn if a train is blocking the crossing.

“You’re giving an advanced warning that hey there’s a train that’s on the tracks, we don’t know how long it’s going to be there, but at least you know to choose and alternate route,” Rep. Smith said.

Another short-term fix would be a video feed for 911 communications to see if a train is on the tracks.

“We would actually have to monitor video screens and that takes manpower and it’s not a good long-term solution, but it is something that we could work with to temporarily get that information into our system so that we can get a quick response,” Stuermar said.

Rep. Smith also identified the Thrasher Pike crossing as a priority.

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