Your opinion: Daily train traffic problem is growing

Twenty-five years ago, Tupelo’s growth was making travel on its limited streets almost impossible. Being Tupelo, we set out to fix that problem, and we have. The Major Thoroughfare Program was established as a citizen-led, pay-as-you-go plan to build the streets we needed. The huge success of that program is obvious this month with the opening of Highway 6 all the way to Oxford and the partial opening of the Northern Loop. We need to continue the MTP every five years as Tupelo continues to grow.

But now we are facing a similar problem with our railroads and the number of trains that daily pass right through the middle of town. MDOT spent $2 million of federal money and came up with a totally unworkable solution that would cost $450-plus million to build. I had given them a much better and cheaper solution, but how could they propose it when my plan was free. So their waste of time and money is gathering dust on the shelf at City Hall.

But we still have the problem and it is getting worse. No. 1, we must do whatever is necessary to turn the train horns off and establish a quiet zone all the way through Tupelo. No. 2, we need to look into the possibility of turning the switch yard around so that Crosstown is not blocked multiple times a day as they juggle railroad cars. No. 3, we need to find out what must be done to speed the trains up as they pass “silently” through Tupelo. Currently the speed limit is 20 mph. At 40 mph, the intersections would be blocked for 50 percent less time. And lastly, my plan to actually move the trains from the middle of our city needs to get the attention it deserves.

The recent smoothing of the Crosstown intersection shows that we can make improvements by working directly with the BNSF Railroad. Maybe it is time for a new citizens committee to be appointed to get to work to fix the rest of the problems caused by the 20-plus daily trains that cut our city in half.

 

Jim High

Tupelo

  • 1941641

    What goods do the railroads ship today that cannot be shipped by trucks along our highways? No problem with train horns. Dwellers along the way don’t seem to mind ‘truck horns.’ Some even say they love the ‘truck horns’!
    Are railroads just a matter of tradition or what? Our town planners created the railroad problem for us years ago. And now, in the 21st century, some local citizens like me and Jim High are trying to offer a solution to this catastrophe. Neither of us are transportation engineers –just old fudie dudies. However, Jim has a lot of experience working to solve this puzzle! I salute him!

    • FrereJocques

      Trains are FAR more efficient at moving cargo than trucks, and they require far fewer workers. Not to mention that if all the trucks used to move that same amount of goods were to hit the highways, the roads would be FULL of big trucks. This is a safety hazard. And all those extra trucks would cause increased wear and tear on our highways, making the costs of repairing the roads skyrocket.

      We need MORE trains, not less! Tupelo’s traffic congestion could be solved by the addition of strategically placed bridges and underpasses. Someone once suggested a roundabout built over the tracks at Crosstown. Far cheaper than relocating the railroad or elevating the tracks, and a reduction in traffic congestion at the same time.

      • 1941641

        But, Frere, trains move slower with a higher percentage of empty storage area than trucks. How does that crank in to your stats?

        • Todd

          Not so fast 1941…there are still a lot of materials that rail/ship/barge make more sense….before I came to Tupelo my job in Arkansas was at a facility that was the largest consumer of LDPE (Low density Polyethylene) in the US and maybe the world,,,,used 6 rail cars per day….everyday, 365 days a year…one rail car was six to seven trucks…trucks cost me $500/load and a rail car was $200 (freight cost only)….that is just one example…I can name more, Ti02, sodium hydro chloride, caustic soda, Trucks work great for smaller Qtys but when you need a lot….a rail car, barge or ship is way more economical. I moved so much cargo on BNSF…they built my facility 100 new railcars…just for our plant. No one else could use them. They carried 100 TONS of cargo EACH….let me see a truck do that.

          Now I won’t disagree that something could and should be done at Crosstown..

          • 1941641

            Let me see a train load of coal or commercial fertilizer roll into Tupelo and unload those goods somewhere between N. Jackson St. –Rankin Blvd. and the Elizabeth St. RR Crossing? No, it can’t, nor can it unload much of anything in the category of heavy freight in that stretch of rail as it exists today. That stretch of rail is the most problematic in the Tupelo RR issue at hand.!

            Re-route the BNF Frisco RR freight coming through Belden to the Existing GM&O tracks to the North and East and by-pass the Tupelo Crosstown area (it won’t be easy, it will be costly and federal funds will be required.) Use the one existing overpass on the GMO RR for traffic flow in the Front St. loop, build an overpass at the intersection of GMO-RR and E. Main St., and maybe one at Elizabeth St. GMO-RR and one at Eason Blvd. and GM&O RR crossing. Two train railroad crossing on Eason Blvd. could have already been built and functioning today if the Tupelo planners had not gone to sleep during the planning and construction of Eason Blvd. from Green St. to its end in the East Tupelo area.

        • FrereJocques

          The roundabout at Crosstown would solve a major problem of emergency vehicles being blocked by trains. I can see the need to put a simply two-lane bridge over the tracks on Jackson Street West, but the only other major road blocked by trains is Eason Blvd. And I don’t know if that one is a major problem.

      • Cletus Snow

        The train vs truck debate is easy to get caught up in. We will always need both, trains are far more efficient in moving freight, however, unless everyone wants rails beside each and every single business then we need trucks to move freight from the rail yards to its final location.
        Also, regarding the safety on our highways, 71% of accidents involving trucks AND cars resulting in injury or death, are the result of the driver of the car… Whether its fatigue, inexperience, speed, intoxication, distracted driving etc… 71% of the time the blame is on the driver of the car. That is a fact.
        Now, on to our highways… President Eisenhower, on a tour of Germany, was impressed with the Autobahn. He envisioned the same for the US, thus our Eisenhower Interstate System. The intent was to facilitate the rapid movement of our military as well as interstate commerce, aka trucking. So, if the cars would get off the Interstates there would be far fewer interactions between trucks and cars.
        As for the rail crossing at Crosstown, its there, you built a city around it, and NOW ITS A PROBLEM?!?!? How about buying some school supplies for the kids at Pierce Street school instead? Most people reading this probably aren’t aware of that problem, but they’re oh so worried about a train.
        And as for trains speeding up AND running without horns??? Pure stupidity. Just asking to get somebody killed. What if its your loved one?

        • FrereJocques

          “unless everyone wants rails beside each and every single business then
          we need trucks to move freight from the rail yards to its final
          location”

          And that is exactly what trucks are good for. Moving goods to and from the trains. They are NOT good for hauling cargo across country.

          “Also, regarding the safety on our highways, 71% of accidents involving
          trucks AND cars resulting in injury or death, are the result of the
          driver of the car… Whether its fatigue, inexperience, speed,
          intoxication, distracted driving etc… 71% of the time the blame is on
          the driver of the car. That is a fact.”

          Again, correct. But how do you solve the problem? Send all car drivers in the country to driving school? Ain’t gonna happen. Easiest solution is to remove most of the trucks from the highway system.

          “The intent was to facilitate the rapid movement of our military as well
          as interstate commerce, aka trucking. So, if the cars would get off the
          Interstates there would be far fewer interactions between trucks and
          cars”

          That was then, this is now. Like all plans of mice and men, the huge boom in trucking was not foreseen, or at least the problems arising from said boom was not anticipated. Removing cars from the highways is not the answer. Removing trucks, or at least as many as possible, is.

          “As for the rail crossing at Crosstown, its there, you built a city around it, and NOW ITS A PROBLEM?!?!?”

          Um, yes it is. First of all, the tracks were WEST of downtown when the rails were put in. They weren’t a problem. But the town, as towns are wont to do, grew up and out BEYOND the tracks. And NOW they are a problem.

          I believe the solution is sitting right there in front of everyone, but no one wants to look at it, at least not so far. That is the afore-mentioned roundabout. This would be easy to implement, since all roads coming into the intersection are already 4-lane roads. If an elevated roundabout was constructed over the tracks, traffic could move constantly regardless of the trains. The railroad crossing warning, and even the traffic lights could be eliminated. I have looked at this a good bit. If people will learn how to navigate a two-lane roundabout, it is efficient and it is safe. But I emphasize, the public needs to learn how to drive on it. There are tutorials on the Internet to show how it’s done. It’s not lengthy, it’s not complicated, and will not cause accidents if everyone follows the rules.

          • Cletus Snow

            “Will not cause accidents if everyone follows the rules”… According to your own comment regarding safety, “ain’t gonna happen.” People don’t follow the rules now, and your proposal is to introduce even more rules?
            Roundabouts are common in only two states, although they have been around for decades. That, in itself, should tell anyone that roundabouts aren’t the way to go. They aren’t popular with the majority. The safe and efficient operation of roundabouts rely on the use of a feature most people feel is optional at best… The turn indicator. Actually, the turn indicator works well in all types of interchanges. As a professional driver who travels farther in a week than most people do in a month, I see what failure to indicate your intentions can do to traffic. Countless times, even in your beloved “roundabout”, I have waited for someone to go around, then at the last second they turn on one of the several streets available to them before they get to me… But unfortunately, they didn’t feel the need to indicate that desire to their fellow motorists. I can read a book, but I can’t read minds.
            My opinion is that spending millions to alleviate a fairly minor if inconvenient traffic problem would be irresponsible when there are far more important areas that need prompt attention. However, that is only my opinion, and unlike some people I realize my opinion isn’t shared by everyone. I don’t live in Tupelo nor do I work there anymore, however my better half does, and as her job has required her to navigate the city streets regularly she has adapted just as all smart people do, and these trains are merely an inconvenience at their very worst.
            Oh, btw, these tracks are still WEST of downtown. That hasn’t changed.

      • 1941641

        Frere, As you say, “we may need more trains” maybe by some wide stretch of the imagination, or train re-routing, we just don’t need the one we already have that virtually cuts Tupelo in half, creating the very worst of continuous traffic flow problems in our city.

      • 1941641

        Frere, I have a question: Would a “Roundabout” built over the tracks at Crosstown be like a Merry-Go-Round where one sits in his car and goes up and down and around all at the same time and then like a revolving door opens up and car and driver are ejected, say, automatically onto a paved area ‘somewhere’ on the circle? I’m at a loss, please help me! And, I do appreciate it, old buddy!

        • FrereJocques

          you should put forward slashes in place of the equal and quote symbols.

          • 1941641

            Sorry, Frere. I’m not schooled in French like you. Explain to me the correct punctuation I need to be using. I may just be an old, aged coot, but I’m still willing to learn the languages of our world!

          • FrereJocques

            Sorry, I tried to post a link. Apparently the moderator decided not to let it through. It posted back to me, but with modifications. I was trying to clear it up in case it came through. Sorry about the confusion.

          • 1941641

            Not allowing links to info on he web can be seen as one of the many reasons Mississippi is so far behind the other states in common knowledge!–education, rationalism, the new world that’s out there waiting to be discovered, and on and on….

  • VocalCoach

    Looking at a map of the city, it looks logical to re-route the train tracks to where the trains would run alongside the major highways (78 & 45). That train already crosses under Hwy. 78 over by Love’s Truckstop and meets up with Hwy 45 just south of the Fish Hatchery. Have it run alongside the north side of Hwy 78 and turn at the 78/45 intersection and follow Town Creek south. Seems to me the most logical solution but I know there are many other options and other aspects to consider.

    • FrereJocques

      That is one of the options that has been explored. Like all the others, it is very expensive.

  • Winston Smith

    My suggestion would be a total reroute of the train tracks. Granted that would be expensive, but there is no cheap alternative. I’m guessing that because of the incredibly high cost of any fix we’re going to continue to just kick the can down the road as long as possible.

  • Cassie South

    I know Crosstown is a problem with trains, but that isn’t the only place that’s a major problem. The one on Eason Blvd. is just as bad if you work on that side of town. Almost every morning I have to make time to account for the possibility of the train parked and switching right there a half of a mile from my work. It causes traffic to be backed up and congested all on that road. I’ve even seen it numerous times have cars backed up all the way up the exit ramp and into the highway, which is extremely dangerous. There should be something done there as well.

    • Cletus Snow

      So you feel that someone should spend millions to alleviate your minor inconvenience? There are far more important things that need attention.
      As for traffic backing up on 45, that is something people should have learned before they got their license. If traffic is backed up it is your legal responsibility to keep going to the next exit, not stop in the middle of the highway.
      My advice to you… Leave a few minutes earlier, you really should allow for anything to delay you a few minutes. A detour due to a wreck, a flat tire, and yes, a train.
      When driving your vehicle, pay less attention to your phone and make-up and more attention to possible traffic problems ahead. You should assess the situation before you commit. If you see traffic backed up in the roadway you should move over when safe to do so then continue to the next exit or intersection, so that YOU ARE NOT ADDING TO THE EXISTING PROBLEM. You never know, following that little nugget of info might just save your life. You’re welcome.

      • FrereJocques

        It isn’t just one person that is being inconvenienced, it’s hundreds of people. Every day. Hundreds of man-hours wasted, and not to mention all that gas that is burned by people sitting in idling cars.

        An overpass on Eason Blvd would not be that expensive. There is no road intersection close by, so all that is needed is a simple 4-lane bridge.

      • Cassie South

        First of all you moron, you don’t know me or what I do in my vehicle!!! I don’t do my make up nor be on my phone. You’re an idiot if you think I’m the only person that’s inconvenienced by this current situation. Now, the point I’m trying to make is that this isn’t 1920 and there are 4 times more people working and living in Tupelo now than there was when all these train tracks were constructed. A city needs to progress with the times and influx of population. Which Tupelo is notorious for seeing a problem and waiting 20 years to fix it. I don’t know if you realize it or not but there are over 100,000 people that work in Tupelo every day. And the road ways are the same as they were when there were only 20,000. Now does that make sense? NO it doesn’t at all. You’ve got to be a liberal with the argument you’ve tried to present. With that being said, please give me just one good reason why my simple and non offensive comment before gave you the reason to be so hateful and full of anger toward me??