ATLANTA — Lilburn residents were caught in significant traffic this week following the closing of railroad crossings across the town, and the closing is expected to stretch through the night, police said.
"Please plan your morning commute accordingly," Lilburn Police Department said.
City officials--who called the incident apocalyptic--are not happy about it.
"Since yesterday, our community has experienced a severe traffic gridlock that could have easily been avoided if CSX Railroad had worked with, and embraced, input from Lilburn city officials regarding the closure of railroad crossings for routine maintenance," The City of Lilburn said in a news release on Tuesday.
It all started Monday when CSX closed railroad crossings across five different Lilburn roads. Lester Road, Main Street, Rockbridge Road, Arcado Road and Harmony Grove Road were all directly affected, according to Lilburn Police.
The City of Lilburn said that it was known that work was imminent, but that the city was not notified when the closings would take place until Monday--the same day of the closures.
"Yes, CSX apprised us that the maintenance work would be conducted in March, but we never received notice of what day, exactly, the project would begin. We received that information on March 14, the start date of the project, via email to our Public Works Director," The City of Lilburn said.
Photos: Railroad crossing closings caused 'extreme traffic delays' in Lilburn, police say
As noted in a Facebook post yesterday, Lilburn Police Chief Bruce Hedley had offered recommendations to CSX officials that could lessen the railroad crossing closures' impact on traffic. The City of Lilburn said that those recommendations were ignored.
"When this was discussed between the City of Lilburn and CSX, Police Chief Hedley strongly recommended the closings be staggered to prevent the current traffic apocalypse, yet here we are," the Lilburn Police Department said on Facebook. "Please understand that we have no jurisdiction with CSX (nor do we have input on any of their projects)."
The railroad closures caused more than backups on the road, according to the city's police chief. The traffic delays had one Lilburn resident in tears.
“Yesterday, we had an 83-year-old woman call us, in tears, because she was afraid she was going to get lost in the detours,” Chief Hedley said in a press release. “Her strife, and the frustrations of so many others, could have been avoided had there been more cooperation and partnership with the railroad.”
The City of Lilburn has since asked CSX to explain what they called a "boondoggle."
“CSX strives to be a good neighbor in the communities where we operate,” CSX Media Relations Manager Sheriee S. Bowman said in an email to the city. “We apologize to the City of Lilburn for any inconveniences caused to motorists as a result of our crossing maintenance program.”
City Manager Bill Johnsa said, "never again."
“This was a CSX decision, square and simple,” Johnsa said in a press release. “Your city leaders would never take such a drastic measure or agree to the ridiculous closure of all railroad crossings at the same time."
Lilburn residents are not alone. Railroad troubles are being felt across the state.
11Alive's Kristin Crowley reported that DeKalb County officials are concerned trains blocking railroad crossings are causing safety hazards. Lithonia's mayor told Crowley that CSX trains have caused years worth of problems for residents.
Overall, Georgia is experiencing a significant hike in reported complaints. Since 2002, the number of train-related complaints has risen a staggering 259%. As of February, complaint reports are seven times higher than during the same time last year.
“Going forward, we expect and demand greater communication, collaboration and coordination with CSX," Johnsa said. "Please rest assured the City of Lilburn will do its part to negate even the slightest possibility of this occurring again. Let’s ensure that this is the last ‘traffic apocalypse’ due to railroad maintenance. It’s vital for the safety of our residents, visitors and other motorists who use our roadways.”
Lilburn Police suggested that residents contact CSX at their customer service hotline (1-877-744-7279) if they are experiencing traffic delays.