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Friday July 31st, 2015 7:25AM

Hall commissioners say no to public hearing for railroad crossing

By B.J. Williams News Director
GAINESVILLE - A dangerous railroad crossing on Tumbling Circle in the Oakwood area will remain open, despite calls from both Norfolk Southern and the Georgia Department of Transportation to close it.

The crossing has been the site of five fatal accidents in the last decade, but Hall County Commissioners said at a work session Monday closure of the road is impractical. Commissioner Billy Powell pointed out the crossing is used by more than 400 motorists each day.

Commissioners have discussed closure of the road in the past. They have also discussed building a bridge as an alternative way to travel over the railroad tracks, but the least expensive construction estimate for a bridge is $3.5 million.

Commissioners said they don't have that kind of money in the budget, and they said the two entities demanding closure of the road have not offered any financial help.

"We're always concerned about safety issues," said Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton. "But, the commission has heard this item previously, through two public hearings before...and are still in the same place. Without some type of commitment that we would be able to open up that crossing again, they don't believe it's prudent to move forward."

To that end, a public hearing that had been advertised for Thursday's commission meeting will not take place.

Hall County Public Work Director Ken Rearden confirmed that GDOT has indicated the state could make a move to condemn the county-owned road; however, he did not have a timetable for such a move.

"The road has been open for decades [ever since] the road's been platted," said Rearden. "You know, it's just going to remain a bad, unsafe crossing at this point in time."
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