BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Trains stalled for lengthy periods of time and creating blockages are an ongoing issue for many communities in central Alabama. Representative Danny Garrett filed House Bill 122 in the legislature to help end that issue due to safety concerns when emergency vehicles cannot get over the train tracks.
Birmingham Council President Wardine Alexander recently partook in a round table discussion with Congresswoman Terri Sewell to discuss how train blockages can be improved. Congresswoman Sewell is working with the Biden Administration to see changes take place with the issue through the Infrastructure and Jobs Act.
“Because the trains are federally mandated, we thought it was important to engage with her office to see what we could do to stop the trains from being blocked. We were with other elected officials including county commissioners, and we were with other municipalities,” said Alexander.
About a year ago, the Pelham community was also faced with having an influx of trains stopping along County Road 52. Councilor David Coram took action and he said things have drastically improved for his community after reaching out to the Federal Railroad Administration. He adds he used a different approach discussing the safety concerns of changes needed with trains blocking the county road.
“I took it from a life safety aspect. Here is the reality of the situation: ‘Our first responders cannot get to that part of the city in a timely manner if a train is blocking it, which minutes and seconds can lead to if someone lives or dies.’ That’s the approach I took when I went to the railroad association,” Coram.
In the Pelham community it was common for trains to be stopped for lengthy periods two or three times a week. As a result of Coram’s work, he said this has now been reduced to about once a month.
If House Bill 122 is passed into law it would provide penalties for any train not stopped for a mechanical failure or due to federal law more than 2 hours. After this time period, emergency vehicles would be allowed to separate the train to get through.