West Point Council discusses closure of 9th St crossing

Published 10:17 am Thursday, February 1, 2024

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The Ninth Street crossing, which goes over the railroad tracks and into downtown West Point, remains closed to vehicles since a sinkhole was discovered at the intersection in August. The West Point City Council discussed the closing and its impact on the community at Tuesday’s work session. 

The sinkhole that originally shut the crossing down has since been repaired, but issues have arisen due to the grading of the streets. According to City Manager Ed Moon, tractor-trailers and motorhomes have gotten stuck on the train tracks.

“We’ve still not had any real progress on getting an engineer estimate on the cost of what it would take to put things back in order to eliminate the issue at the crossing,” Moon said during his city manager report.

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One obstacle to overcome, aside from cost, in doing these repairs is the actual railroad tracks are not owned by the city, but by the railroad company, CSX Transportation.

“CSX was contacted about us encroaching on their property potentially to make these improvements. And they have said, we’d really like to see the crossing stay closed,” Moon said. 

Moon added that CSX mentioned the possibility of financial incentives from the company and the Department of Transportation to keep the crossing closed. 

“There are some things we can do at Eighth Street if we had additional funding, potentially add a turn lane there or do some changes to that intersection’s signals… But if we want to reopen it, we’ll focus on what it’s going to cost,” Moon said. 

Councilmembers Gerald Ledbetter and Sandra Thornton were vocal in their opposition to keeping the crossing closed. 

“I have heard nothing from the community except to reopen Ninth St,” Ledbetter said. “Anybody that has talked to me, every single person is deeply concerned about the traffic situation.”

Ledbetter said that there are three entrances into town and all are necessary. He ended by urging Moon and the council to find a way to make the reopening of Ninth Street happen. 

Thornton agreed saying, “It needs to be open. I don’t think they can offer us any amount that would satisfy the community.”

Thornton went on to say the trucks getting stuck on the railroad is caused by the grading done on the railroad’s property.

“They made the mistake in my eyes, and I think that they should be responsible for it because it could cost somebody their life,” Thornton said.  

Councilmember Joseph Downs brought up the concern of the cost of the repairs needed to reopen the street. However, he noted that CRX did not give any specifics on the potential incentives. Downs was supportive of keeping the crossing open but had not ruled it out completely.

“Unless we found out that the costs or negotiations with the railroad are too difficult, then we may have to reconsider,” Downs said.

West Point Mayor Steve Tramell and Ledbetter discussed exploring solutions that would reopen the crossing only to cars and small trucks but exclude large tractor-trailers. Moon said he would come back to the next meeting with some ideas. Tramell added a discussion on the railroad crossing to the next council meeting, which will take place on Feb. 12.