Vicksburg board OKs closing of Speed Street crossing

Published 12:07 pm Monday, September 14, 2015

The Speed Street crossing at Pearl Street should be closed by November.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Thursday passed an ordinance closing crossing with little discussion. City Attorney Nancy Thomas said the ordinance becomes law after 30 days, adding city officials expect Kansas City Southern Railroad to close the crossing by the end of October.

Speed Street crosses the KCS tracks at Pearl Street, linking Speed with the west side of Pearl Street.

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The ordinance was on the board’s agenda for its Tuesday meeting, but was tabled at the request of the Rev. Joe Mosley, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church located at the dead end of Klein Street near the crossing. Mosley, who represented the church’s congregation, said the members wanted more time to discuss closing the crossing with the city. The church members have opposed closing the crossing.

Mosley attended Thursday’s meeting, but did not address the board, which passed the ordinance without debate. He declined to comment on the board’s decision after the meeting.

“This is a long time coming,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “It was the right thing to do, and we’re moving forward. This is not a perfect situation, but it is the right situation, I think for the community.”

Closing the crossing has been discussed since 1998.

Residents and bed-and-breakfast owners in the Speed, Pearl and Klein Street area complained of late night noise problems caused by passing trains sounding the horns as they approached the crossing, which was marked by signs, but members of Calvary opposed closing the crossing because it hindered access to the church.

If the Speed Street crossing were closed, one church member said at an October 2013 public hearing on the closing, traffic would be redirected to the north end of Pearl Street, where it goes into a slight curve, narrows the street and could cause congestion.

Police Chief Walter Armstrong and Fire Chief Charles Atkins said at the same hearing they had seen instances where city emergency vehicles have had trouble negotiating the crossing. Atkins said the city’s large fire trucks have problems clearing the crossing and negotiating a curve just past the crossing.

City Attorney Nancy Thomas said Tuesday concern over a rail accident blocking the crossing was the reason the access road was discussed.

The board took the crossing under advisement after the public hearing, and in September 2014 signed a right of way agreement with KCS, clearing the way for city public works crews to build a roadbed along the east side of the switchyard from Klein Street west to Depot Street, and the board advertised for bids to pave the project and install a fence to separate the road from the KCS yard.

The emergency road was part of a compromise between the city and the railroad and will serve as an emergency outlet for people on the west side of Pearl Street across the tracks, allowing the city to close the Speed Street crossing north of the street’s intersection with Pearl Street and create the quiet zone.

The board in July approved a $96,625 bid and contract for paving and fencing the Klein Street extension to Riverside Construction of Vicksburg at the Board of Mayor and Alderman Friday.

KCS requested the fence as part of the agreement to let the city use a portion of the yard’s eastern edge.

Under the contract, Riverside paved the emergency road, which runs along the east side of the Kansas City Southern switchyard from Klein Street to Depot Street, and installed the fence.

Work on the emergency road has been completed.

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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