By Nick Nunn
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) discussed a plan proposed by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) in conjunction with CSX Transportation, Inc., which would involve upgrading warning devices and consolidation of crossings, impacting nine public grade crossings in Morgan County.
The plan was prepared for the GDOT in June 2012 and suggests the installation of new warning devices at five public road grade crossings while permanently closing grade crossing on found public roads.
According to the proposal, the crossings in Buckhead at Fraction Bottoms Road, Swords Road, and Buckhead Road would receive updated warning devices, while the crossings at Oconee Shores Road in Buckhead and A Street in Rutledge would be closed.
Additionally, two of the four passive crossings between and including those at Double Bridges Road and Crossover Road would be closed and two would receive warning devices, at the county’s preference.
Because of the locations of the last four mentioned crossings, which lie between Madison and Rutledge, there is no clear-cut case indicating which two of the four should be closed, but the plan does note that the crossings to the west have less traffic. The plan also mentions the possibility of constructing a new crossing opposite Harris Hollis Lane.
In order to justify the closing of crossings in the county, the plan notes that, “The safety benefit of closing crossings with relatively little highway traffic may be substantial.”
During the meeting, Commissioner Ron Milton brought issues with the plan to the board’s attention, especially regarding the closing of the Oconee Shores Road crossing in Buckhead.
If the Oconee Shores Road crossing is closed, then the Oconee Road crossing, located six-tenths of a mile to the west, would be the only road access to a neighborhood consisting of approximately 200 homes, which would cause issues, if that crossing were to be blocked for any extended period of time.
“That is a one-way-in and one-way-out, and if that one crossing is blocked for any reason, there is no way out for 200 homes in there in an emergency situation,” said Milton.
County Manager Michael Lamar offered to draft a letter for those citizens to the GDOT recommending that the crossing stay open.
“We could write it on behalf of them,” said Lamar. “It might carry more weight than a homeowner’s association.”
However, Lamar acknowledged that, “when dealing with the railroads… a lot of your suggestions will fall on deaf ears. They’ll do what they want anyway.”