City rolls toward closing Klein, Pearl rail crossings|[07/22/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The City of Vicksburg took a step Monday toward eliminating the jarring sound of train horns in a neighborhood one block west of the Garden District’s bed and breakfast tour homes. With South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman acting as pro tem in Mayor Laurence Leyens’ absence, the city approved agreements with both Kansas City Southern and the Mississippi Department of Transportation to begin proceedings to close the railroad crossing at Klein and Pearl streets.

“This is a baby step,” said City Attorney Nancy Thomas, noting there is not a clear time line on when the actual closing will take place.

Residents have long sought relief from the train horns near Klein, Speed, Oak and Court streets. Federal safety laws require the horns be sounded on approach to all crossings, unless exempted. By eliminating crossings, the requirement to sound horns is eliminated without seeking an exemption.

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The city began working with KCS and MDOT in 2005 to close some of the crossings or have them designated quiet zones. The Klein Street closing would be the first closing since then. Complications have included access to homes on the west side of Pearl Street, especially for fire and ambulance reponse.

The actions taken Monday still need approval by both KCS and MDOT, at which point an ordinance to close the crossing will have to be approved by the board of mayor and aldermen.

Under the agreement, the city will receive $150,000 from KCS and $25,000 from MDOT to close the crossing. KCS will remove the asphalt around the crossing, and the city will be responsible for posting warning signs and barricades.

“We’re going to apply for Oak and Court Street crossings to be a quiet zone,” said Thomas. “It’s a lengthy process, we have to go through the federal railroad authority, but we continue to work on it.”