Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ih-35 sign offers little relief: Railroads can help (if they really want to)

If you need to go downtown, you need to go downtown.  A new sign displayed on IH-35 advising motorists if the roads leading to downtown are being blocked by the train simply prepares you to be ready to wait. There is no other way to get to downtown if the IH-35 acces road, San Bernardo, Convent and Santa Maria are all being blocked by the Kansas City Southern.

Years ago, the state of Arkansas had a law requiring railroads to have "full crews" on trains moving through the state. At one time, that meant having a total of 6 members on each train. Now, there is only a conductor and an engineer. In some places, there is only a conductor with a remote control and he stands on the ground and controls the man-less engine.

The US Supreme Court, long ago, uphelp each state's rights to determine how to man train crews working within their borders. It was the unions which were eventually forced to give up most of the crew members on each train due mostly to the advances of technology: no caboose, walkie-talkies, remote control engines.

There is nothing, however, to keep the Kansas City Southern from having a brakeman on certain crews with the assigned duty of  "opening up" heavily-used crossings such as IH-35 access road and the tracks near downtown -or San Bernardo.  Once it is known that there will be an unusually lengthy delay, the brakeman can be driven to the crossing by the KCS's shuttle service, which is on duty 24 hours a day, and the brakeman, in communication with the engineer, can proceed to unblock the crossing.

This is possible on any train that is coming from Mexico. The hangup is that if a train going TO Mexico is blocking the crossings, it is not as easy to co-ordinate movement between the KCS and the Mexican crews.

I strongly sugget the Mayor looks at this option.

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