Controversy over closure of railroad crossings in Tangipahoa - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Controversy over closure of railroad crossings in Tangipahoa Parish

Updated:
The railroad crossing, now closed, at Capace Road , near Independence. The railroad crossing, now closed, at Capace Road , near Independence.

Tangipahoa Parish, La. - People who live near Capace Road just outside of Independence woke up around 6 a.m. Saturday to find their road closed.

DOTD closed the railroad crossing that gave them direct access to their neighborhood.

"They should have come to people and said, 'Look we're closing your crossing,'" says Catherine Arnone.

The Department of Transportation and Development shut down two other crossings, another one just outside of Independence and one in the village of Tangipahoa. DOTD cited improving driver safety as the reason, following the deaths of 10 people - one of them pregnant - in the past decade.

Cecilia Alfaro lost four of her children at the Capace Road crossing three years ago.

People who live nearby are sympathetic and agree more safety measures should be taken, but the closings have them feeling like they've been double crossed.

"Many times people take us for granted. They think we are just a bunch of country hicks who don't know what we're doing, but we are about to show them that we do," says Patricia Morris.

"How are you going to come down here at 5:30 in the morning without informing the parish president, the Sheriff's Office or hospitals that these closures were occurring?" asks Councilman Louis Joseph.

DOTD had announced on June 20 that the three crossings would be closed by the end of this week.  But council members say everyone was caught off guard, even the parish president and emergency personnel, when it took place early Saturday morning.

"This was all done because they knew that tonight we would take some action to stop this and they jumped the gun and did it on Saturday," says Councilman Carlo Bruno.

Council members say they received letters from DOTD, stating that two public meetings had taken place prior to the closings. They say that isn't true.

"This whole thing was blunder. I think it's up this parish to do what it needs to do legally, to do what we need to do until we get a hearing -- and I mean a true hearing," says Councilman Bruno.

Residents say the state is taking the easy way out by shutting down the crossings, instead of putting up arms and flashing lights. At some of the crossings, they say people would have to travel miles out of their way to get home.  And they believe it will be a safety issue in case of a fire or emergency.

The Tangipahoa Parish Council decided at a meeting Monday evening to seek a temporary restraining order and injunction to have the crossings re-opened.

The DOTD told FOX 8 safety is a top priority. It released this brief statement to FOX 8 Monday night:

After meeting numerous times with parish official and legislators, attending several public meetings and notifying the parish, DOTD removed these unsafe crossings.

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