Train to roll on new tracks - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Train to roll on new tracks

February 26, 2007

Valdosta - The chime of a railroad crossing.  The whistle of a train. All are familiar sounds to anyone living in Valdosta and Lowndes County.  "It's pretty much a daily routine. You can come here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and even Friday about this time, and you'll sit here about 20 minutes," says Valdosta resident Connie Englemann.

But that doesn't mean they like it.  "When you are in a hurry you might as well forget it, because you are going to be late. If the train comes around, you get aggravated and irritable," she adds.

Jerry Dozier agrees.  "It's irritating . They shouldn't be so long. We've been here 15 minutes now."

And it's only gotten worse over the years.  "Train traffic is increasing due to fuel costs going up. Train traffic and the train business has been on the increase for the last two years," says Valdosta Mayor John Fretti.

The city estimates tens of thousands of cars are stopped each day, largely a result of a busy switching yard located on St. Augustine Road.  "We measured it, and almost 94 percent of automobile stoppage is due to train switching," he adds.

So the city has come up with a solution they hope will ease congestion.

They are beginning an 18-month project to move this switching yard to a less populated area on the east side of the city.  "And by simply moving that we will free up so much of that traffic, and I think people will be much happier," says Mayor Fretti.

And the switch will continue to help traffic in the years to come.  "We want to make sure we get it out far enough, where we won't impede like it does now for another 30 to 50 years."

Mayor Fretti says the project will cost about one million dollars and council will begin discussing it in the summer's budget hearings.  All railway companies who pass through Valdosta are onboard with the switching yard move.

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