published Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Panel leans toward rejecting closure of Bradley County railroad crossing

The Bradley County Road Committee is expected to vote soon on whether to recommend closing this railroad crossing on Old Weatherly Switch Road.
The Bradley County Road Committee is expected to vote soon on whether to recommend closing this railroad crossing on Old Weatherly Switch Road.
Photo by Tim Barber.
Poll
Should the railroad crossing be closed?

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- A Norfolk Southern proposal to close the railroad crossing on Old Weatherly Switch Road, on the rail line between Cleveland and Cohutta, Ga., is losing support among Bradley County commissioners.

On Monday, commissioners on the Bradley County Road Committee expressed their intent to reverse an earlier recommendation to close the crossing. The recommendation -- passed by a 2-1 vote in late November -- was made contingent on a thorough assessment of the closure's impact on county residents.

The committee will meet soon to vote again on the matter, said Commissioner Mel Griffith, chairman.

Last week the proposed closure was opposed by a daughter of Mary Thomasson, whose 10-acre property would be divided by the closing.

"The other residents of the area have admitted that this would just be an inconvenience for them if they had to drive around," said Olivia McLaurine at the previous meeting. "For my mother, or whoever owns the property in the future, it's going to create hardship."

Thomasson's property on the other side of the tracks from her home is pastureland, said McLaurine, and stands little chance of development because it is low-lying. To maintain the land as pasture would require that agricultural vehicles be driven two or three miles out of their way.

Another problem, McLaurine said, was that people would use her 81-year-old mother's driveway as a turnaround, disturbing her with the coming and going of strange vehicles.

On Monday, she thanked commissioners for considering the position of her mother and her neighbor, who share similar circumstances.

Norfolk Southern proposed the closure to county leaders in mid-November, citing safety improvements and minimal impact on local residents. Another rail crossing is less than 1,000 feet away on Tennessee Highway 317.

The closure is estimated to affect driving times by less than two minutes, said William Miller, a representative of Norfolk Southern, during the November presentation.

The closure could affect the county's bottom line by $45,000, officials said.

Norfolk Southern, in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, would pay Bradley County up to $30,000 to close the crossing. The county stands to save an additional $15,000 if it does not have to make repairs to the storm drainage system at the crossing, according to the Road Department.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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