SMITHS STATION, Ala.- Work is now underway at the railroad crossing across the street of Smiths Station High School to install crossing arms along with pedestals with flashing lights and alarms.
District 3 Lee County Commissioner Gary Long said it has been almost six years of work between Norfolk Southern, Alabama Department of Transportation and Lee County to bring the safety devices to the crossing.
He said there have been three accidents at that crossing since the time the push for getting crossing arms put in began. Long, a Smiths Station resident who has always lived close by to the tracks said he had gotten used to the sound of the trains at the crossing, but since the recent accidents, he constantly hears the sound of the train.
“After seeing the accidents here, it’s just further evidence that there’s a lot of danger right here,” Commissioner Long said.
Smiths Station Mayor, F.L. “Bubba” Copeland said the city learned they were getting the upgrades at the crossing a couple weeks before Christmas, and added that he feels the accident in which two people were injured back in December trying to cross the tracks sped up the process.
When he saw work begin early this week, he called it a “victory for Smiths Station.”
“Every single night, you sit there and you worry that somebody is going to get hit or at 8:00 in the morning or 4:00 in the afternoon you worry about students crossing that intersection there or that railroad track and you worry,” Mayor Copeland said. “Now that we know that those bells and those arms will be going down, at least we know we’ve done everything we can possibly do to protect the citizens as well as the youth of Smiths Station.”
Mayor Copeland and Commissioner Long said once the devices are in place, they hope people will respect and obey them.
Long went on to say that it is a relief that these improvements are in the works, but adds, “I compare life often times to a race of hurdles. You jump one hurdle, and right in front of you is another. So, I know once I clear this hurdle, there’s another crossing. I would love to see the crossings in Smiths Station all with crossing devices. At least those that have a high traffic volume.”
Construction is estimated to be completed by early to mid-February.