Walker City Council votes to close two railroad crossings

Walker City Council votes to close two railroad crossings
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
Sunset Road railroad crossing in Walker. (Source: WAFB)
Sunset Road railroad crossing in Walker. (Source: WAFB)

A decision Monday night by the Walker City Council to close two railroad crossings has people in two neighborhoods upset, but the mayor said, with two deadly wrecks involving trains in the last four years, the city cannot afford the risk.

It's difficult to drive through Walker and not cross over the railroad that divides the town, particularly for folks living in the neighborhoods near Sunset Lane and Mayer Street.

WALKER, LA (WAFB) - Those are two crossings in the city that DOTD says are not up to safety standards.

Without bars or lights, there are only signs to urge caution.

For the city, that has become a liability.

"The city has had two fatalities in the last four years at a similar unimproved crossing and as you have these types of accidents the city liability will go up if we do not make the necessary improvements to bring them up to DOTD standards," said Walker Mayor Rick Ramsey.

The city faced two options: close the crossings or update them to the tune of around $300,000. Neighbors told city leaders they worried closing a road would limit access, especially in emergency situations.

However, reports from the police and fire departments said response time would not change. City leaders also say the surrounding roads can be improved and widened to handle any extra traffic. This is especially important on Sunset Lane which, at only 13 feet wide, is considered substandard.

Ramsey says the city can cover the ditches and expand the road with gravel or stone temporarily. He added that Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks assured him the parish would make doing a full overlay a priority in the coming year.

After hearing several public comments on the issues, the council voted 4-1 to close the two crossings.

"I'm just disappointed in our council. I don't think they considered the fact that we only we have one way in and one way out," said resident Mary Johnson who lives near Sunset Lane.

Ramsey insists that safety is the biggest concern and assured residents that the crossing would not close until needed road repairs are finished. He also said that the city would work to make the required barricades as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

"The cost is not the issue. The safety is the issue. It's hard to justify that kind of [upgrade] expenditure though when you're looking at an average of 10 or less vehicles per hour crossing the streets," said Ramsey.

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