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'Something must be done' | Lawmakers push for change after train blocks road, delays Hawks game

Trains blocking roads is a problem 11Alive has been digging into for months. Our investigation found it's only getting worse.

ATLANTA — It's not every day the opposing team is forced to walk to State Farm Arena because their bus is blocked. 

"This one is for the books," Charlotte Hornet's player Montrezl Harrell said in a viral video of the team walking into the arena. 

The delay happened not because of Atlanta rush hour or traffic at the arena but because a stalled freight train blocked their bus from the stadium.

"I've been coming to this arena for 20 years," Hornet's coach James Borrego said in a press conference. "I've never seen a train stop before a game." 


While this issue of trains blocking roads is new for the Charlotte team, it's not new for Georgians. 

It's a problem 11Alive has been digging into for months. Trains block roads for minutes, hours and sometimes days here in Atlanta and across the state. Our investigation found it's only getting worse. 

There were 131 train complaints in 2020. In 2021 that jumped to 471. This year, we're already at 384 complaints in Georgia. That's quadruple this same time last year. 

"This is just another testament to a problem that really needs to be fixed," State Representative Jasmine Clark said. 

Rep. Clark said Georgia lawmakers couldn't do much about the problem. It will take action from Congress to fix it. 

"I think there needs to be a lot more regulation at the federal level about what can happen in the states or untie the hands of the states," Rep. Clark said.


We asked CSX why the train stalled. The company replied:

"At CSX, safety is our highest priority, and we work hard to minimize the impact of our operations on neighboring communities. We understand that it can be frustrating when trains block road crossings, and we make every effort to prevent that from happening whenever possible.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused to motorists when one of our trains stopped briefly near Atlanta’s State Farm arena yesterday. It is important to note that there are times when mechanical and operational issues could result in blocked crossings, as well as when trains stop for mandatory safety inspections or federally-regulated crew changes. Our goal is to, safely and efficiently, transport America’s freight and we appreciate the patience of motorists and pedestrians waiting for our trains to pass safely through the area as we serve local businesses and families throughout the northeast Georgia region."


While stalled trains are an inconvenience for many drivers and the Hornets, the bigger concern is their impact on public safety. 

Mike Russell, deputy chief of the Dalton Fire Department, said roads blocked by trains could prevent EMS from getting to an emergency quickly. 

"If an engine gets stuck by a train, they will just radio the other engines and they’ll go another way and get there before they will,” he said. "It really just adds another response time to a call." 

Rep. Clark said that could be dangerous in an emergency.

"Everyone can agree no matter what side of the aisle you're one you do not want a train blocking an emergency vehicle from getting to you or someone you love in the instance of an emergency," she said. 

Whether it is a medical emergency or a basketball game, Rep. Clark said now is the time to take action on this issue. 

"When you have these issues across the state, you cannot ignore them," she said. "Something must be done."

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