DADE CITY — City officials have asked CSX Transportation to take steps to avoid blocking city streets with trains for extended periods, said City Manager Billy Poe.
On July 11, a CSX train traveling though Dade City stopped, blocking several intersections on the east side of the city. Traffic was blocked for about five hours.
Poe said the stopped train prevented people from gaining access to or from their homes and could have hampered safety personnel from responding to calls in a timely manner.
Poe said that calls began to come into city offices about 1:15 p.m. The train did not move until about 5:47 p.m. The train blocked River Road, Martin Luther King Boulevard and Tuskegee Avenue.
“It was a nightmare,” Poe said. “Fortunately nothing bad happened. We are very fortunate that someone didn’t have a life-threatening event or a fire or anything like that. There are ways to get around (the intersections) but it takes so much longer.”
CSX told city officials that the train crew reached their mandated work hours; they can only work 12 hours in a day because of federal guidelines. When they reached their limit, dispatchers told them to stop the train.
The railroad told the city that a new crew would arrive about 4 p.m. to move the train.
“My thought is they could have run the thing another 5 minutes and not have affected so many people,” Poe said.
Poe lodged a complaint with CSX on July 16. “This thoughtless action on the part of your crew created a tremendous strain on our ability to provide essential public safety services,” he told CSX.
“The Police Department gathered all available resources and stationed officers on both sides of the tracks in order to aid in traffic control and security of citizens traveling through unfamiliar neighborhoods — as well as providing security for the train, itself. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office was also contacted and provided resources.
“The blocking of this neighborhood, without so much as a phone call, is unconscionable. Surely, with even minimal planning, the crew could have secured the train minutes north or south of this location — without impacting the public in this fashion — while still operating under federal mandates.”
The city manager requested that the railroad take corrective action.
“I would ask that you examine your processes to ensure that these episodes do not happen to us, or any other city, in the future,” he said. “These careless actions severely limited the capabilities of even basic emergency services response and could have been catastrophic to our citizens. Just as vital, your leadership demonstrated no urgency in bringing resources to us in a timely manner. This is inconceivable to me.”
City officials have met twice with CSX representatives since the incident and they have apologized, Poe said.
“Basically, they are working on better communication between us and CSX,” Poe said. “And if it does have to happen again, they would give us a heads-up. They are supposed to come out for another meeting.”