A railroad crossing on Old Jesup Road between Cate Road and an Interstate 95 overpass has been a problem for the public and county officials for years, but a resolution may be in sight.
Just north of Hautala Drive, three tracks intersect Old Jesup Road — two owned by Norfolk Southern Railway and one by CSX Transportation.
County officials often hear complains about the intersection, according to Glynn County Commission Chairman Mike Browning.
The News reported on such public concerns more than a year ago. Some said they were worried the crossing would damage their vehicles, despite driving over it at a reasonable speed.
Norfolk Southern did some maintenance to the track not long after, but that work hasn’t held up, according to county officials.
“They repaved the approaches on either side. They used asphalt, which is a good patch material, but they didn’t roll it out like you see when they repave a road,” Browning said. “I’m not sure it’s not worse than what it was before they worked on it.”
Larry Little, traffic safety division manager with Glynn County Public Works, said the part of the crossing owned by CSX could be worse. It’s the one that sits in the middle, meaning any work on the road approaching the crossing from either side would have to be handled by Norfolk Southern.
A CSX employee went out to inspect the intersection earlier this week, Little said, suggesting the county try to coordinate a fix.
“What he said we should do, and he’s recommending, is getting Norfolk Southern to the table with us and instead of doing part of the crossing this year, and part of it next year, is have a contractor do all three of them at the same time,” Little said.
In the meantime, he said CSX will do what it can in the short term to smooth out the crossing, he said.
A CSX spokesperson confirmed that the two companies would have to cooperate, but said CSX has no plans for any significant improvements to the crossing.
“The bottom line is CSX is going to do a temporary fix, and we’re going to try to get both systems to the table in the near future to see about maybe getting one contractor to do all the work,” Little said.
In an ideal world, both railroads would work together and improve the crossing to look more like those on U.S. Highway 341 near Cowpen Creek Road and Community Road near its intersection with Old Jesup Road.
For the county, paving the crossings with concrete is preferred.
“Concrete’s a lot better and a flatter profile,” said Public Works Director Dave Austin.
Getting anything done with the crossing has been something of an issue, Browning said, as local governments have little power over the railroads.
“We certainly don’t have the upper hand when it comes to getting things fixed with the railroad,” Browning said.
He didn’t want to characterize the county’s relationship with either company as bad, however. It just is what it is, he said. Over the last few years, both companies have done some good work in his view on other crossings in the area.
“I think we’re all at the mercy of railroad. If they want to work on their crossings they do, and if they don’t, they won’t,” Browning said.
It’s important the railroads deal with that crossing, said Commissioner David O’Quinn. It’s a busy road, he said, and the traffic is only going to increase.
“It’s a busy thoroughfare, and it’s projected to increase into the future. The repairs that have been made there, they’re not helping traffic flow and causing a lot of people to have to stop and slow down,” O’Quinn said. “I think the consensus, talking to people, is that they could do a better job.”
Looking ahead, Glynn County is planning to make some changes to Old Jesup Road to improve traffic flow, and it could ultimately be hindered by the railroad crossing in question, he said.
“We’re going to have to address it. There’s no plans to four-lane it, let me be clear on that, but there’s things we can do like widening the shoulder and adding turn lanes so we can stack up cars a little better,” O’Quinn said.
It seems like the railroads want to work with the county on this, he said, but bureaucracy may be slowing things down.
“I’d like for the people in the community to know we are aware of these railroad crossings,” Browning said. “If we knew of a trick to get the railroad to come out and make them smoother, we would.”