Neighbors livid as controversial railroad crossing remains open

Neighbors livid as controversial railroad crossing remains open

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by RAD BERKY / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @RadBerkywcnc

WCNC.com

Posted on October 24, 2012 at 11:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 25 at 6:01 AM

GASTONIA, N.C. -- Almost everyone agrees that a railroad crossing in Gastonia is unsafe and needs to be closed.

However, the crossing on West Ruby Avenue will remain exactly as it is -- even as some parents worry about what could happen to their kids.

"People come across it fast all of the time," said Steve McKinney.

He and his family live right next to the crossing, which is between South Marietta Street and South York Road in south Gastonia. Vehicles have to go over an unusually high-banked hump that makes it hard to see oncoming traffic.

Jessica Denton had to slow almost to a stop and squeeze by an oncoming car Wednesday night. When NBC Charlotte asked her if she'd had close calls before she said, "Yes, it happens a lot."

Enough neighbors had complained that the city of Gastonia began to evaluate a plan to close the crossing. The state department of transportation also weighed in, saying the crossing warranted being closed.

It would cost $175,000 to close the crossing and make improvements to the roadway. The DOT agreed to put up $75,000 and the railroad, Norfolk Southern, would add $15,000.

However, with fewer than expected federal dollars available, the city still found itself short by $85,000.

So the crossing will remain as is.

Next to the crossing is the Chemtura Chemical plant and many of the trucks from the plant have to use the crossing to get in and out.

Plant Manager Jeff Lukowski said, "The best solution to the crossing really is what is best for the neighbors." He added that closing the crossing is only one of the options. "Alternatively, making improvements to the obviously impaired asset right here was another way to go."

So until the money or another solution can be found, the hope is nobody gets hurt -- or worse.

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