Chatham County is poised to receive significant funding to tackle railroad crossing congestion, a long-standing concern for residents and commuters, made possible by federal support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
According to the Savannah Morning News, the project’s initial phase, focused on planning and development, will receive a total investment of $4.67 million. This funding will be instrumental in addressing safety issues and enhancing traffic flow by eliminating 11 at-grade railroad crossings in the county.
Chatham County is set to receive $1.87 million in federal grant money through the Railroad Crossing Elimination Program. Additionally, the county will collaborate with key stakeholders, including the Georgia Ports Authority, and railway companies CSX and Norfolk Southern, who will collectively contribute an additional $2.8 million to support this endeavor. Together, these investments aim to create safer and more efficient transportation routes in the region.
Recent train accidents around Georgia
A spate of recent train accidents in the area underscores the need for safer communities:
- In February, Savannah mayor Van Johnson was a passenger on a Charleston train that hit a car on the tracks, killing the driver. The mayor suffered no injuries.
- Also in February, a man was hit and killed by a train in Baxley, near the Copeland railroad crossing.
- In April, a driver was airlifted to a Savannah hospital after their vehicle was struck by a train in Statesboro.
- In August, a pedestrian who was crossing the railroad tracks in Cartersville was struck and killed by a train.
- Also in August, a pedestrian was struck and killed by a train in Garden City.
- Earlier this month, four people were injured after a train collided with a truck on the tracks in Bulloch County.
What trains run through Savannah?
Amtrak currently offers train service through Savannah with daily and weekly stops for travelers, while Norfolk Southern and CSX handle freight. You can find a map of all the rail lines in Georgia here.
How do these changes help our Savannah community?
According to the Savannah Morning News, in 2022, the United States saw over 2,000 highway-rail collisions and over 30,000 reports of blocked crossings through Federal Railway Administration’s (FRAs) public complaint portal. Furthermore, with 98 railway crossing collisions in 2022 alone, Operation Lifesaver ranked Georgia as having the sixth most dangerous rail system for pedestrians in the country.
This is why these upgrades will be so beneficial. First, they will eliminate multiple crossings between roads and tracks, which alone will reduce the risk of a collision. (By default, this will also eliminate the risk of emergency vehicles being unable to gain access to an accident scene.)
Second, they may ease congestion, which can also reduce the risk of an accident involving vehicles and/or pedestrians. The Port of Savannah’s Garden City Terminal alone has almost 40 freight trains running through it each week. About half of all freight trains are more than a mile long, and they can legally take as long as they want to pass through a crossing. In 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that the average CSX “train length rose 13% to 7,241 feet, or about 1.4 miles long. At CSX’s average train speed of 17.4 miles per hour, that means it would take about 4 minutes and 44 seconds for that train to pass you by.” This does not necessarily include the length of time drivers had to wait before the train even came into view.
What are the negative human effects of having trains in your town?
While trains play a crucial role in transportation, their presence in towns can introduce significant challenges as well.
- Safety: The presence of railroad crossings can increase the risk of accidents involving vehicles, pedestrians, and trains themselves. Trains can be deceptively quiet, when not blaring their horn, making them a potential hazard for pedestrians and drivers to gauge their approach.
- Quality of life: The loud noise generated by train horns, particularly at night, can disrupt sleep patterns and cause stress, especially in households with young children, sick family members, or merely light sleepers. A 2022 study in the journal Environmental Research cited laboratory sleep studies where people exposed to railroad vibrations experienced fragmented sleep cycles, expressed in dormant changes in heart rate.
- Public health: Air quality is a critical concern due to trains emitting diesel exhaust with harmful pollutants. Prolonged exposure, especially for nearby vulnerable populations, can cause respiratory problems. Additionally, the 2022 study established a connection between railway proximity and diabetes, even after considering factors like sociodemographics and lifestyle.
Eliminating railway crossings in our suburban Savannah communities is a positive step towards ensuring safety, but accidents can still happen. When a train accident occurs, determining liability is of the utmost importance. The experienced train accident lawyers at Harris Lowry Manton LLP specialize in handling these challenging cases, aiming to secure positive settlements or verdicts for our clients. We are proud to support our community and we invite you to read our testimonials to see how our dedicated team has helped bring peace of mind to our Savannah neighbors.
For train accident injuries, trust Harris Lowry Manton LLP’s skilled Savannah lawyers. We bring strong negotiation and trial abilities to advocate for your case effectively. Call or contact our convenient Atlanta or Savannah offices to schedule a free initial consultation.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.