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9 railroad crossings ordered closed

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / August 31, 1998

LAPLACE – Those railroad crossing accidents in St. John the Baptist Parishwhich have made headlines for several years may soon be a thing of the past.

A mandate from the Federal Railroad Administration, channeled through the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to St. JohnCivil Defense Director Bertram Madere, calls for closing nine crossings in Reserve and two in LaPlace, Madere told the St. John Parish CouncilTuesday.

At that meeting, Madere asked for and received $4,000 from the parish’s Roads and Bridges Fund to pay for survey work toward the construction of new connecting roads between the adjoining streets.

A plan to close those roads must be presented to the state by March 1, 1999, Madere said.

Those streets tentatively due to lose railroad crossings in Reserve include West First, West Second, West Third and West 15th streets, the crossing serving Terrance and West Seventh streets and Cedar Drive (all Illinois Central Gulf), Northwest Second, Northwest Third and Northwest Fourth (all Kansas City Southern). Also, the crossing for West 19th Street (ICG)will be upgraded.

In LaPlace, those roads which may lose KCS railroad crossings include Cardinal and Robin, while upgrading the crossing at Walnut Street with crossing gates, bells and lights is called for.

A two-hour public meeting was held Thursday night at Rising Star Baptist Church, 620 Cardinal St., LaPlace, to inform residents about the plannedcrossing closings. The Rev. Donald August said residents oppose theCardinal Street crossing, and expressed concern with drainage (already a problem) and of losing the only through street in LaPlace from Airline Highway to River Road.

“Nobody said anything about accidents,” Madere observed. “We just havetoo many crossings. There’s no way we will ever be able to put lights,bells and crossarms on every one of these crossings.”Madere told the Parish Council there is sufficient easement alongside the Kansas City Southern to provide for a road which will connect the parallel roads and run alongside the track toward Central Avenue in Reserve.

Madere said the railroad has agreed to provide the land.

However, land will have to be bought to extend Nancy Street to West 15th Street to meet the federal mandate, Madere added.

He continued that the design and construction will take into account local drainage and will help access for emergency vehicles and speed up evacuations.

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