OUR OPINION: Crosstown work seen as a smooth improvement

Tupelo’s infamous Crosstown Intersection – Main Street, Gloster Street and the BNSF Railroad – has bedeviled motorists for decades with train-delayed traffic, heavy use even without trains and, most recently, frame-rattling, tire-blowing problems within the structure of the railroad crossing itself, requiring repairs.

The intersection has been closed to vehicle traffic since early Saturday, but even so trains have been allowed through the barricaded crossing.

BNSF chose the date to make the repairs to the tracks and the foundation on which they rest, and the city agreed even though Tupelo had thousands of visitors for several major events. Crosstown, which offers the most direct route getting from all sides of town to others, was bypassed by thousands of detouring drivers who found other ways to get where they needed to go, and Tupelo police helped in the redirection.

The problem generally in the crossing involves loose tracks and crumbling support. The affect has been bone-jarring bumps crossing the intersection with some motorists reporting blown tires and wheels knocked out of alignment.

Many people have complained to City Hall. Ward 6 City Council member Mike Bryan let his anger be known on Facebook, describing the intersection as a major quality of life issue.

Similar issues cropped up about 18 months ago, and repairs described by Mayor Jason Shelton as a “Band-Aid” were made, but the problem returned.

“As an elected official for the city of Tupelo, I have for months and months heard from citizens concerning the deplorable (and unsafe) conditions of the RR crossing at cross town,” Bryan posted to his social media network friends.

This time, BNSF describes its work as a “total rehabilitation project,” and it will get the first-hand test from thousands of drivers who will cross it as soon as it reopens.

Paid for by BNSF Railway, construction crews will have upgraded 220 feet of railroad track, removing rotten wood and loosened rails. As a result, concrete will keep train rails firmly in place.

The delay in reopening is weather related: Asphalt requires a narrow range of conditions for installation. If the weather improves, the crossing could reopen sometime today.

“We thought it would be better to put up with the traffic headache this (past) weekend than risk another year of this continuing,” Shelton said.

No one would argue with Shelton on that point. Now, if someone could figure out how to make quiet zones affordable.