(Jackson, MS) – Monday, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba announced that the City of Jackson has filed a lawsuit against Canadian National Railway to restore and reopen the underpass at Walter “Dutch” Welch Drive, at the railroad company’s expense. The City is also demanding that Canadian National adjust its operations to avoid routinely blocking existing crossings at Northside Drive, California Avenue, and Livingston Road.
“We can no longer wait for Canadian National to do what is right. So many of our residents have been frequently blocked from going to work and returning home, and from going about their daily business. Businesses have been affected to where customers cannot reach them and finally, they take their business somewhere that’s more convenient. In some instances, emergency vehicles cannot come and go without significant time consumption,” said Mayor Lumumba during today’s press briefing.
Ward 4 Councilman, De’Keither Stamps, and Ward 3 Councilman, Kenneth Stokes have been staunch proponents of resolving the issue. “It definitely poses as a threat to our quality of life. The only entity that can close a city street is the City Council. I appreciate the Administration for pushing this issue on forward,” said Stamps.
Since 2016, the Bel-Air neighborhood and the Grove Park area have been negatively affected by the blocked underpass. Eric Norwood, President of the Bel Air Neighborhood Association, said that first responders particularly have trouble getting to citizens in need. “When there’s a train on the track in Bel Air and Grove Park; fire trucks, police, and even ambulances have problems getting to our area. We’re an old neighborhood; we have a bunch of seniors. It’s a real inconvenience to drive another half mile, then come another half mile to get to someplace that’s just 400 yards.”
Bel Air Neighborhood Association VP, Brian Grizzell, said that the problem has forced morning rush hour traffic to go through school zones, putting the lives of children at risk. “When the train is on the track at 7:30 a.m., the traffic is re-routed to multiple school zones. People are trying to get to work; they’re rushing and they’re putting our children at risk of getting hit by cars.”
In 2019, the Federal Railroad Association created a website to report blocked railroad crossings which citizens can use to create a record showing how significant the problem is in Jackson.
The website is www.fra.dot.gov/blockedcrossings/. The form only takes a few minutes to complete.
Citizens are urged to report any railroads that are blocked in the City, along with the crossings at Northside Drive and California Avenue and at Livingston Road.