VILLA RICA, Ga. – For nearly 140 years, trains have traveled through the town before Villa Rica was established back in 1881. Its not the sound, frequency, nor having to wait for the train to pass that's vexing for residents.
Its the intentionally abandoned train that's been blocking an intersection for the past two weekends that is a major problem.
This is the second time in two weeks the Northfolk Southern trains have done this, according to Villa Rica Mayor Jeff Reese.
"If you ever had to sit at an intersection when they're on the side track it will last for thirty minutes or maybe an hour and then they're gone but for three days it sat there with nobody in the train," he said.
Reese said the streets of Conners and Cleghorn were blocked by the train from Friday night until Sunday morning. A fire truck was delayed 10 minutes to a medical call after having to maneuver around the train, according to Mayor Reese.
"Ten minutes can mean the difference between life and death," Reese said.
There are several homes and a few businesses along the intersection. This type of mishap is something Charles Fretwell fears, his 80-year-old mother lives on the other side of the tracks.
"If something happens you couldn't get to her like a fire or something stat, they have to go all the way around," Fretwell said.
When 11Alive reached out to Norfolk Southern to find out why its trains halted traffic and hindered emergency response for two consecutive weekends, they sent a statement saying in part,
"Due to reduced train operations over the holidays, we needed to hold trains at certain locations across our rail network… We ensured that two grade crossings were open for traffic. We apologize for the inconvenience to the community."
A spokesperson also said they were in communication with city, county and state officials and highlighted that there were alternate routes, including an overpass three miles away. The spokesperson said the company apologizes for the inconvenience to the community.
The mayor said the blocking isn't just about their being alternate routes, he said, "the problem is that its also the best route to The to the hospital the hospital being up here off Dallas hwy."
Officials in other cities have also reported problems with the trains blocking the intersections.