Train blocking Bessemer communities for nearly 24 hours officially moves

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — UPDATE: The train that was blocking tracks on Highway 150 in Bessemer has officially moved, clearing the way for drivers.

ORIGINAL: Bessemer police report a train has been stopped on Highway 150 in Bessemer since 4 a.m. and said officials are hopeful to have the locomotive moved by midnight.

The train is impacting downtown Bessemer as well as the following streets that intersect with Hwy. 150: 15th, 16th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 32th Streets.

Chief Michael Roper told CBS 42 that BPD began receiving calls about the situation around 6 a.m. Roper said police spoke to Norfolk Southern Corp., the train’s operating company, who told them that the crew on track ran out of hours to work and had to stop running the train. As of 5:15 p.m., the company is trying to get the train moved by midnight, according to Roper.

City council president Cynthia Donald said trains are always stopped between 15th and 32nd Streets.

“We have to go from 32nd Street all the way down to 9th Street just to cross over to get one block and that is frustrating to me,” Donald said. “This happens to us over in District 3 two to three times per week, if not four.”

For drivers, this is another headache on the evening comute.

“This morning it was here,” Tony Petelos said. “I don’t know if it is the same setup, but now this afternoon, the same thing.”

The blockage has not impacted emergency transportation, but Roper also said this could change.

“I’ve been living over here for like 24 years and I’ve seen people lose their lives, the railroad track’s been tied up with the ambulance and things like that,” driver Reco Barham said. “It’s very ridiculous.”

Donald said she has gotten 149 calls from concerned citizens about this issue on Monday. This is the third time they have seen the train stopped since Thursday. Sometimes trains will block both tracks for days, trapping people in the city.

“Someone please help us with this situation. I beg and I plead. Someone help us with this problem,” Donald said. “We’re not just sitting around, twiddling our thumbs. That’s not what we do. We’re working hard to try and get someone to come down and see.”

According to Donald, Roper has been waiting for a call from Atlanta all day about the issue. She said she has tried working with officials there and in Washington, D.C. to find a solution to this continual issue in the city.

In a statement, Norfolk Southern said it is prioritizing a crew to get to Birmingham:

We never want to inconvenience any member of the community with a stopped train. Trains stop for a variety of reasons, such as mandated rest periods, to comply with federal regulations and ensure the safe operation of a train. Our scheduling teams make every effort to minimize these impacts and we prioritize getting and keeping trains moving safely. Whenever we are made aware of recurring issues in a particular community, we work to find a solution to keep things moving. We always value our local partners and the communities we operate in and look forward to continuing to solve problems by building up those relationships.

Connor Spielmaker, Norfolk Southern Media Relations Manager

Stay with CBS 42 as this is a developing story.

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