(Satsuma, Alabama – December 7, 2011)
Even though Satsuma, AL Mayor Bill Stewart has repeatedly approached officials of the Norfolk Southern Railway for gates at the Bayou Avenue crossing, which was the site of the tragic death of a 22-year-old motorist eight months ago, his pleas for improved safety have fallen upon deaf ears.
The tragedy, which left the young man’s girl friend still struggling to recover from her serious injuries, and the lack of gates which the city and its populace feel could have prevented it, continues to be a bone of contention among the City of Satsuma, the Norfolk Southern Railway, and the Alabama DOT.
Satsuma citizen Susan Dunn is perplexed, as she and everyone else in her part of town cross the tracks at Bayou Avenue dozens of time each week.
“If you’re going at a certain time of day and the sun is in your eyes, you can’t see those lights, whereas you could see the arms,” attested Dunn.
This week, Norfolk Southern officials closed most of Satsuma’s crossings to perform extensive track maintenance work NS claims is done every 8 to 10 years at a cost of “several hundred thousand dollars,” a capital outlay which the mayor feels should be shared with efforts to better protect the driving public.
Mayor Stewart, who even agreed with ADOT and NS to close one other crossing in Satsuma in exchange for the installation of gates at the Bayou Avenue crossing, feels gates at crossings are just as important as any track maintenance.
“There’s no reason that they should not move first to protect the safety of the people when they’re spending money to protect their equipment, and the product that they’re transporting,” said Stewart.