After meeting with Norfolk Southern officials on Friday, Villa Rica City Manager Tom Barber is unsure if anything can be done about the long freight trains that run through and sometimes stop in the City of Gold. At times the train will block numerous intersections, sometime for hours at a time.
As far as the length of the trains themselves, Barber said Sunday, "Unfortunately I don't see it getting better… I see it getting worse."
Barber said the volume of business that is being generated on the Atlanta-Birmingham Line continues to increase, "There are some things that the railroad is trying to do to minimize the blockage that we are experiencing downtown. The problem that we are facing is partly due to the fact that trains are longer now than they have ever been. Norfolk's trains are two miles long and back in the day when they built the sidings, you didn't have two mile trains. So you don't have sidings that are capable of holding the two mile trains. Not only do they have capacity on the main line which is a single line from Atlanta to Birmingham, but their sidings are not numerous enough or long enough. The volume is so great along that whole line that they are having to use the sidings because they just can't push that much volume through on a single track, bi-directional line."
And while the length of the trains continues to increase, Barber said city officials are hopeful that Norfolk Southern can break the trains when they do stop in town so that the intersections are not blocked.
Barber commented, "So even though the train is on the siding that is not sitting across the crossing, it takes them a lot more time to uncouple and break it and then to put it back together. That's what we have to work on next."
So, why must the trains stop at all in Villa Rica?
Barber answered, " Villa Rica at the North Carroll crossing is the dividing line between the Atlanta Norfolk Southern operation and the Alabama Norfolk Southern operation and you have two different unions involved. So the Alabama Union can only drive the train into Villa Rica and then they have to stop and get off and vice versa for the Georgia train."
Barber said Norfolk Southern officials suggested that they will consider moving the break point closer to the Alabama-Georgia Stateline.
Also, according to Villa Rica mayor Jeff Reese, "An advanced warning sign is expected to be installed on Connors Road near the intersection of Mirror Lake Blvd, alerting drivers that a train is blocking the track. He says this is awaiting approval by Douglas County.