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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / South Carolina mayor lashes out at NS over grade-crossing blockage; legislator proposes stiff penalties NEWSWIRE

South Carolina mayor lashes out at NS over grade-crossing blockage; legislator proposes stiff penalties NEWSWIRE

By | February 4, 2019

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A screenshot from a video on the North Charleston, S.C., city government Facebook page shows Mayor Keith Summey standing in the middle of a railroad track to harshly criticize Norfolk Southern over daytime work that blocked a busy grade crossing.
North Charleston city government Facebook page
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — North Charleston’s mayor has taken to social media to lash out at Norfolk Southern, posting a video complaining about maintenance work that blocked a key grade crossing, while a state legislator from the community has introduced a bill that would substantially increase the penalties for blocked grade crossings.

The video by North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, posted on the city government Facebook page, came after the railroad closed a busy grade crossing for maintenance last week.

In the video on the city government’s Facebook page, Mayor Keith Summey — standing the middle of a railroad track — says, “I couldn’t be more upset about Norfolk Southern’s attitude toward people in the greater Charleston Area.” He questions why NS can’t do grade-crossing work at night, and says, “How about being a citizen of our community instead of someone who thinks they can run in on a rail and run over us.”

A Norfolk Southern spokesmwan told the Post and Courier newspaper that the railroad apologized for the delays but said the work was done during the day for safety reasons. She also said the railroad has reached out to the mayor to discuss the project.

Meanwhile, state legislator Marvin Pendarvis (D-North Charleston) has introduced a bill that would fine railroads for blocking a crossing with anything other than a continuously moving train for more than 5 minutes. Fines, currently $5 to $20, would be increased to $5,000 for each blocked lane, or $10,000 between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Such laws face an uphill battle because railroads engage in interstate commerce and local laws are therefore superceded by federal regulation. Last year, similar laws regarding blocked crossings were struck down in Indiana [see “NS wins challenge of Indiana blocked-crossing law,” Trains News Wire, Sept. 25, 2018] and Kansas [see “Kansas court rules for BNSF in grade-crossing case,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 5, 2018].

16 thoughts on “South Carolina mayor lashes out at NS over grade-crossing blockage; legislator proposes stiff penalties NEWSWIRE

  1. As a resident in this region, this is not the first time Mayor Summey has taken a anti NS stance. The crossing in question is one that takes Ashley Phosphate Rd. over the track. It is a notoriously busy road that locals call Ashley Frustrate Rd. Mayor Summey also opposed an intermodal terminal served by NS being built on the former navy base that would be served from the north. As the expression goes: This too shall pass.

  2. I agree with Mr. Crowe. Sounds like First Class Political BS to me.

    Is this mayor up for reelection by any chance? By the way, standing in the middle of the railroad track to prove a point was a real smart move on the part of this mayor. Afterall, what better way could Mr. Mayor have chosen to professionally promote Safety First to the citizens of the city he represents?

    This Outstanding South Carolina Public Servant demonstrated through total ignorance and lack of common sense what it means to be an elected official as well as a political leader to the younger generation growing up in the City of North Charleston today. Furthermore, it has, as a result of this recent unlawful disgusting display of trespassing on private property sent an alarming message to the kids of this community, some who now may possibly think it’s cool to stand on railroad tracks and play chicken with trains.

    The questions I ask are:

    If Norfolk Southern would have announced a meeting and invited State, County, City. Police, and other responsible authorities in advance and held by division officials regarding the work needed to be performed by the railroad prior to beginning same, I’m certain that the railroad and city could have worked out a pratical plan to detour traffic over alternate routes to insure that an even flow of traffic continue to move without causing any major congestion as a result of the closure of this grade crossing. Additionally, the time period that such work be best performed could also have been determined at the meeting, e.i. during day or night hours.

    In closing: This is yet another example how important Operation Lifesaver is and can be utilized to insure that such incidents be prevented in the future so railroads and the communities they serve can plan necessary and vital track work in advance to prevent any ugly confrontations such as this one apparently has in North Charleston.

  3. Missing from this horse’s behind politician is any definitive statement as to whether or not local police and fire/ rescue were notified by NS. Chances are they were. I can’t know that but I would assume so.

  4. Yup, he’s trespassing, no doubt about it. These stupid politicians think they’re so smart and then they go and do something like trespassing. The railroad should prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. They must both be trying to get re-elected, thinking they’re showing the public how smart they are, all they’re really doing is showing how stupid and criminal they really are.

  5. They can try. I doubt they’ll succeed. The previous cases involved trains blocking crossings. Here, it is a question of maintenance which, by its nature is transitory and over by the time any litigation finds its way into a courtroom.

    I also assume that the City of North Charleston would like its rail facilities kept in a safe state and in good working order. On occasion this means closing down a crossing for a while, while the work is being carried out. Sorry about that, but reality sometimes bites.

    The above comments are general in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Find your own damn lawyer.

  6. I would assume that there is more than one road in North Charleston, SC. Just detour around the crossing as you would do for road work which I am sure the city does occasionally. Of course, this could be nothing more than a political move to get more publicity and votes. That’s alright, call me cynical.

  7. Mr Jones, in my 38 years as a Public Works Director and City Manager that is exactly how both NS and CSX approached us. We had crossings ripped out with no notice, or 2 or 3 days notice at the most. They never advised the PD. FD or anyone else to confirm detours ar public warnings. The simply said we’re doing it. Only in the final 2 or 3 years of my career did it get any better ( CSX) when they hired a contractor specifically for coordination.

  8. If the mayor wants no maintenace work done on the track at that location, what would be his response if a train should be derailed there because the track was not maintained properly?

  9. Communities loath RR x-ings, but try to maintain it and there is hell to pay. Trains are longer and if unable to repair problems, the only recourse is to slow order the track until it conforms to geometric FRA standards. At one time there were government policies to eliminate crossings. The premiss was simple. Eliminate the train / auto interface and you will improve the safety of the driving public.

  10. One wonders if NS’s conversation with the mayor more or less amounted to, “We’re doing it. If you don’t like it that is too bad.” Considering how railroads treat customers it would not surprise me if this were correct.

  11. If they did the work at night then the local NIMBYS would have complained about the disruption of their lives.

  12. Mr. Messera: Thank you for posting your highly professional comment which sheds much light on this subject. This still didn’t give an outraged mayor any right to trespass on private railroad property to prove a point. Contacting the local press, TV, and radio stations, would have been the proper, legal, and logical way to bring this problem to the attention of fellow citizens and public servants of the area, and quite possibly even the Norfolk Southern HQ as well.

    I fail to understand the Norfolk Southern spokeswoman’s logic that the grade crossing work “was done during the day for safety reasons”? Germany’s Deutsche Bahn currently maintains many active construction sites throughout the country with as much work as possible performed during the dark hours when vehicular traffic is traditionally at low levels, (e.i. not in the middle of the morning and evening rush hour madness), however, it must be taken into account that there are some projects which can’t always be regulated to just the wee hours of the night.

    Regardless, districts and areas where essential work must be performed in order to maintain high safety standards, day or night, the proper authorities are always notified in advance to avoid as much traffic congestion as possible. This also includes notifying local police and fire department personnel so an alternitive plan can be worked out and placed into effect especially in the event of emergencies where every minute counts when saving human life is a priority.

    It’s called Common Sense. Come to think of it, there isn’t very much of this stuff left in today’s society is there?

  13. I work on Ashley Phosphate Road, about a mile from this crossing. This is no REAL alternative crossing within 5 miles. The CHS airport is in the middle, so there is no easy way around. Roads were not built here with any logic either (nor are the drivers very good, but that’s another story).
    Ashley Phosphate Road is a MAJOR 6 lane road, with LOTS of industry and schools nearby. Traffic is bad there at most times of the day, under “normal” conditions.
    BUT, there were plenty of advance notice signs placed on AP Road, and on I-26, at least a week before the scheduled closing. There was also notice in the Post & Courier newspaper.

    NS is correct that the job needed to be done in daylight. I watched the rail laying process one day and the equipment and manpower probably stretched for over half a mile. Not something you want to be doing at night.
    The problem was that NS didn’t finish up in time last Wednesday afternoon. That caused a large traffic jam on one of the detour routes which caused backups in both directions during “rush” hour. (I saw this coming so I took a different detour route and didn’t encounter the same level of frustration). BTW, the repaved closing is smooth!

    The mayor should be addressing the crime and murder rates in North Charleston, and stop trespassing on NS property.

  14. Mr. Hakim: Thank you for setting the story straight regarding Norfolk Southern’s reason for performing mainteinance to the grade crossing during daylight hours. Since it is legally against the law for railfans to trespass on railroad property when photographing trains what rights does a man who holds public office have when he knowingly abuses his authority as mayor? NONE!

    Go directly to jail and do not collect $200.00, furthermore, I declare your Get Out of Jail card INVALID! Better yet, in my opinion, a trip to Gitmo including free waterboarding treatment would work best……

  15. Any kind of bill proposed by politicians that attempts to fine railroads for blocking crossings is a total waste of money, time, and effort. I wish politicos would get that through their thick skulls.

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