Rail company committed to railroad crossing improvements in Savannah

Rail company committed to railroad crossing improvements in Savannah

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Following up on a story we brought you last week, the issue of train horns blasting through midtown Savannah continues to be an issue for folks living in that area.

It’s a topic many have sounded off on social media, prompting city leaders to look into the issue for an update on when it could stop.

WTOC spoke directly with the company that operates the rail line that runs through the heart of the city to get some answers as well.

A company called Watco took over operation of the Savannah and Old Fort Railroad line about a year ago.

Watco has been working with the city and the Georgia Department of Transportation since then to find a solution to the issue of horn blasts through midtown since.

Federal law requires engineers to sound their horn at least 15 seconds before a public crossing, in a pattern of two long, one short and one long blast. That pattern has to be repeated until the lead car is in the crossing. If they don’t, the engineer could lose their job and Watco could receive fines.

As close as Savannah’s midtown crossings are together, that can lead to a very long, loud trip through the city.

To alleviate the issue, the city is looking to apply for a quiet zone, which can be granted after a number of security upgrades are made to crossings.

Watco representative Ailsa von Dobeneck said, “Right now, we are in the process of signing contracts with GDOT on several locations across the line where...how it works is we go out there and do the work, and then GDOT reimburses us through the federal program for additional lights and gates, that kind of thing.”

Dobeneck said Watco is committed to making the significant infrastructure improvements because they plan on staying in the community long-term.

Once the contract process with GDOT is finished, which Dobeneck says is close to completion, work can begin at the various crossings to enhance safety. That could be by early spring.

“Everybody will have a heads up before we begin these projects,” Dobeneck said.

Dobeneck said community feedback meetings were planned pre-pandemic, and that they hope to revisit that possibility again soon.

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