COLUMN: A traffic lifesaverPublished 12:03pm Wednesday, January 22, 2014
“Whoa, this is not going to be good” were words that crossed my mind Tuesday morning, Jan. 14, when I rolled to a stop behind a long line of traffic on East Main Street. My worst fear was confirmed when I noticed that the street was blocked by a CSX freight train, and it showed no sign of movement.
“It could be an accident at one of the grade crossings,” I thought. ” I need photos and my camera’s at the office. I’ll have to back track and work my way over to Georgia Street and use the overhead bridge to cross the tracks.”
Even before I was turned around, I realized that traffic was at its peak and every other motorist in town was trying to get to the same railroad overpass, no matter if they were going east or west.
Sure enough, every side street leading to Georgia Street or Longhorn Pass was jammed tight with slow-moving vehicles, including school buses. Thankfully, police officers were working traffic at major intersections. Still, the two-mile route I had to cover to get to work took 20 minutes.
My earlier guess that an accident caused the problem turned out to be the case. The driver of an 18-wheel tractor and trailer made a bad decision when he attempted to cross the tracks at the College Street crossing. The under carriage of the trailer was not high enough to clear the tracks and was stuck. The driver abandoned the truck and sought help but there a not enough time to get the train stopped before it reached the grade crossing. The train engineer was able to slow the train, lessening the impact. However, a flashing signal was broken and the truck sustained minor damage. The worst part was the city’s grade crossings were blocked for nearly three hours.
While the traffic was a mess and an inconvenience for many people, imagine how much worse it would’ve been had the overhead bridge not been there. The old wooden bridge, which was closed in 2005, was limited to vehicles weighing 3,000 pounds or less, meaning it could not be used by emergency response vehicles.
As we look back, we can be thankful for the decision that was made by local and state officials 12 years ago to replace the old bridge It is because of that decision that Tuesday, Jan. 14, emergency was handled in a timely manner
Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer