City to close Speed Street RR crossing

Published 11:30 am Thursday, September 4, 2014

City officials believe an agreement between the City of Vicksburg, Kansas City Southern Railroad and Meridian Speedway LLC, a short line railroad subsidiary of KCS, that allows the city to build an alternate access road east of the tracks on Pearl Street will silence the horns blown by trains as they enter the Speed Street crossing.

The agreement approved Monday by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen allows KCS to close the crossing just west of the intersection of Speed and Pearl streets under an arrangement in which KCS gives the city a right of way to build the road on the west side of the crossing that will intersect with Depot Street.

City Attorney Nancy Thomas said Meridian Speedway was included in the agreement because the company, which is managed by a joint venture between KCS and Norfolk Southern Railroad, operates a rail line between Meridian and Shreveport, La., that uses the tracks and the rail yard.

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“This is a long time coming,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said.

Public Works Director Garnet Van Norman said the right of way will be on the east side of the railroad’s switch yard off Levee Street.

“We’re going to extend Klein Street with a paved road east to the east side of the railroad yard, and then we’ll have a gravel road north to Depot Street,” he said, adding KCS specified the gravel road from Klein to Depot.

Thomas said the road will give residents living on the west side of Pearl Street across the tracks an alternate route in case Pearl Street is blocked. Closing the Speed Street crossing, she said, means trains going through the city from the southern city limits to the northern will not have to blow their horns until they get to the crossings on Levee Street and the entrance to the water front. “The rest of it will all be quiet zone,” she said.

“This was their (KCS) idea,” she said.

Residents and bed and breakfast owners living in the area of the Speed Street Crossing on Pearl and Klein streets have complained for years to city officials about the noise from trains reaching the crossing.

“We’ve been going at it (closing the Speed Street crossing) since 2003,” Thomas said.

City officials have called the crossing a safety hazard, because emergency vehicles have had problems negotiating the crossing to get to calls on the west side.

The residents gave their opinions on the crossing in October at a public hearing on the board’s plans to close it. The board took the closing under advisement, and city officials began meeting with KCS representatives to discuss a solution.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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