City Manager Tom Finney opened the ball saying that the City needs to be "proactive on this issue," and cited safety as the reason to close this intersection. Finney said the city is often accused of being reactive, not addressing issues until an incident occurs, and the City has a chance to prevent some future accident at this location.
In opposition, Woodland Heights residents weighed in on the Broadway Av closure issue at Monday night's City Council meeting. Five residents spoke against the proposal, no one spoke in favor.
From the Springfield News-Leader, Jenny Fillmer reporting:
Several north Springfield residents turned out Monday to speak against a proposal to close Broadway Avenue at a rail crossing between Chase and Commercial Streets which is currently blocked several hours a day by trains.
This is the third time the council has considered the closing, which is requested by the BNSF Railway Co., citing safety concerns. The proposal has been strongly opposed by neighborhood residents living both north and south of the crossing.
If the closing is approved, BNSF would pay the city $65,000 to make improvements to the area.
"We would like to work with the neighborhoods and use that money to the best way that they see," said City Manager Tom Finnie, who supports the closure.
Zone 1 Councilman Denny Whayne has scheduled a neighborhood meeting to discuss the issue at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at Woodland Heights Presbyterian Church, 722 W. Atlantic St.
Carlson advised those at Monday's meeting that public hearing would continue at the next council meeting, a week after the neighborhood meeting.
"The rule is, you only get to speak one time," said Carlson.
Despite his warning, five neighbors of the rail crossing spoke against its closing.
"I think this would be very bad for business," said Larry Robinson, owner of American Bag Co. on Commercial Street. "We bring a lot of trucks in there."
Robert Stoviak, who has lived near the rail crossing for 49 years, called railroad claims that it was unsafe "hogwash."
"That's the safest crossing in Springfield, Missouri," he said. "Trains go over it at the most restrictive speed: 5 mph."
The council may vote on the issue Dec. 12.
As Paul Harvey would say, here's the rest of the story.
Robert Stoviak was a long time railroad employee and strongly opposed the closure. He said the railroad really wants the closure to use that section of track to store longer trains while making them up and are fearful of the liabilities they incur while using remote engines.
Stoviak also observed that Missouri has a"10 minute" rule that all railroads must comply with. Under this rule, no train can block a crossing for more than ten minutes. Stoviak challenged the statistics used by City Manager Tom Finney. "The tracks are only blocked about 10% of the time," instead of Finney's statement that the tracks are blocked 55% of a day. Stoviak observed that tracks cannot be blocked that much because of the ten minute rule.
Strident in his opposition, Stoviak said "Every time the railroads want something, they cite safety, it's bunk, and the liars outta be sued."
An important fact came to light in Larry Robinson's testimony. He refuted the implication from railroad supporters that the recent pedestrian injury was at the Broadway intersection. He personally observed the emergency response and stated it was behind his building, several hundred feet away from the intersection.
Also speaking in opposition were Mr. Watkins, David Hunter and Dudley Martin. Watkins observed that the Grant Av crossing was more dangerous than Broadway and that maintenance of the underpasses is inadequate. Hunter represented the Woodland Heights Neighborhood Assn and made a short statement that the group was opposed to the closure. Attorney Dudley Martin proposed a "Tom Finney Memorial Bridge" to span the intesection with an overpass stretching from Chase St to Division St, using new technology and materials used in a recent construction on Farm Road 148. This project could also be used as a learning practicum for Rolla's UMR and MSU's engineering departments.
Grant Beach Neighborhood residents were glaringly absent. Many of the Grant Beach leaders had conflicts in time scheduling with other neighborhood activities. Others wanted to "keep their powder dry" in anticipation of more information to be available from future meetings related to this issue. The meetings and schedule are available at their website calendar: http://www.grantbeachneighborhood.org/calendar.htm