CROSSING CONTROVERSY: Railroad Closure Debate
Ever since the Des Moines City Council introduced the idea of closing two of the city`s railroad crossings last June, people have been trying to fight it.
One of the closures involves the railroad crossing near the intersection of Hull and Delaware Avenue.
Cherie Mortice is leading the charge in the Hull Avenue neighborhood. Mortice says if the crossing is closed, she and her east side neighbors are cut off. “I think the main concerns have to deal with compromised emergency services, cutting us off from the businesses we support in the industrial area, cutting us off from our schools.”
Councilman Bob Mahaffey said that the closures would help the Union Pacific Railroad, and therefore Des Moines’ economy by increasing its tax base, and adding jobs. He says it would also improve safety.
“It would give the railroads more efficiency. They can make up longer trains because that`s what their plans are, they can add a few more cars to the trains and not add anything to their cost,” said Mahaffey.
People against the closures countered that there has to be another way to get those economic benefits, without completely shutting down the crossings, and therefore making the road a dead end.
“Perhaps there can be some better solution than making it so my neighbors can’t get to other people and their family on the other side of the track in a timely manner,” said Cynde Rayman from Des Moines.
Residents like Rayman living near the other proposed closure, on East 34th Street, share many of the same fears as those near the Hull Avenue crossing, including the fact it would force them to use alternate routes- roads that in some seasons aren`t even an option .
“The flooding is big- we’d be an island if 7th Ward ditch and 4 Mile Creek flooded at the same time. Happens all the time,” said Cynde Rayman.
The issue will be on the council’s agenda again on May 6th. In the meantime, council members said they hope to work with nearby homeowners and the railroad to come up with a compromise.