Investigation launched into Garden City train delays

GARDEN CITY, GA (WTOC) - After almost a year of getting the cold shoulder and no railroad crossing improvements from CSX, Garden City Mayor Don Bethune has had enough.

Train delays are causing some to face threats of getting fired for being late to work, and kids sit on curbs for hours waiting for their parents to pick them up from school.

Larry Kent lives right next to the railroad crossing on Big Hill Road.

"The train will come and sit here for at least two or three hours. I actually watch this train from my back porch just sit here," he said.

One of the biggest dangers is the loss of a clear route for emergency responders. firefighters, and ambulances, and police do not have a way to come to the rescue with a train in the middle of the tracks.

"You never know when it's going to come that we have to make access to this road, and we can't get there," says Kevin Kent, Garden City Police Department.

Garden City leaders are desperate. They've proposed maps to CSX with stopping alternatives outside of residential areas. They also finally met with CSX in person last week. The mayor says it took three months to make the meeting happen. They thought the talk was productive - but still, no improvements. Residents even reached out to Congressman Buddy Carter in several letters.

"This is a matter outside of my authority," Carter said, and sent the problem back to Garden City and CSX.

WTOC asked the Mayor what CSX's reasoning behind the delays was. He says, "If 10 people called, you'd get 10 different answers."

WTOC also reached out to CSX. They declined any sort of interview and issued this statement.

CSX had a productive meeting with Garden City leaders on November 14th and we continue working to address concerns about blocked grade crossings in the city.  We are evaluating several potential solutions discussed during the meeting and we remain in contact with city leaders as we work through this process. While we strive to serve the growing Port of Savannah as efficiently as possible, we understand that challenges exist there and we are focused on reducing the impact of our operations in the area.

Mayor Bethune took the next step. He placed a call to the Federal Railroad Administration on Tuesday. They told him it usually takes months to start an investigation into a situation like this.

"The administrator says this is so grievous, he's going to initiate an investigation NOW. I think this is going to put some pressure on CSX and hopefully we'll see some results in a short time frame," Bethune said.

Whether those results come from CSX or the FRA, Mayor Bethune says he's on a warpath.

"I'm gonna talk to anybody that I can because we need some relief and we need it out here now."

Copyright 2017 WTOC. All rights reserved.