Councilman in Tangipahoa upset with DOTD decision to close roads

INDEPENDENCE, LA (WAFB) - Monday night, council members in Tangipahoa Parish voted to file a temporary restraining order against the Department of Transportation and Development or DOTD, to stop them from closing three railroad crossings in the parish.  Those crossings are located on Reverend J. White Road, Capace Road and Babb Road.

Early Tuesday morning, three councilmen say they received several calls from citizens saying state workers were digging up sections of the road at those locations. One councilman says it's a sneaky move by the state department.

"They didn't even give us a chance," said Louis Joseph as he crossed the railroad tracks at Capace Road. Joseph says DOTD didn't give the parish a chance to appeal any decisions they had already made about closing the railroad crossing there.

But he's not the only one who's mad about seeing busted gravel and DOTD equipment.

Greg Varnado, also a councilman in the parish, says he started hearing from citizens around 9:00 a.m. that crews were digging up part of the road on Reverend J. White Road. It all comes a day after the council voted to file an injunction against DOTD.

"What was the necessaryness of this today?" asked Carlo Bruno, another council member. "To dig up the roadbed when you already have giant barricades that's blocking it." Bruno has been on the council for years. He says in the past, the parish has always been notified about the possibility of these crossing being closed.

"This time it was a total surprise. We didn't have any idea until last week, when the press contacted us," said Bruno.

The councilmen say they are upset with the way DOTD has handled the entire process.

"Here they are in our parish, closing down crossings very early in the morning. Just sneaking into the parish. Doing it hush-hush," said Varnado, speaking about the 'road closed' signs and barricades that state workers put up Saturday morning. "They were out here at 5:30 in the morning."

But DOTD says the parish government in Tangipahoa knew what was coming. A spokesperson for the state agency says last year a letter was sent to Parish President Gordon Burgess, telling him they were considering closing the three roads in question. They say last week they also sent another letter explaining the reasons why and detailing what would happen.

In the letter, it says:

"By closing redundant highway/rail crossings or "crossings of convenience", and re-directing motorists to highway/rail crossings with active warning safety devices, we reduce the potential for collisions at highway/rail crossings and protect the citizens of this area."

Three years ago, four teenagers were killed at the Capace Road crossing.

Even with the safety concerns, the council says they would have like to have been made aware the closure was coming.

"It's not what you do, it's how you do it. And we don't appreciate the way it was done," said Joseph.

Council members say they still intend to file the temporary restraining order against DOTD because they say proper procedures were not followed. They're hoping a judge will make DOTD reopen the road, until a public hearing is held.

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