Some concerned proposed railroad crossing closures could hinder first responders

Some concerned proposed railroad crossing closures could hinder first responders

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As the city digs deeper on a proposal to close some railroad crossings while upgrading others, questions over whether cutting off access to certain streets will derail response times for first responders have cropped up.

"Why didn't we check with EMS to find out whether it was going to feasible to get to people who are sick?" questioned Levert Kemp.

Some of those concerns were raised directly at a public meeting on Tuesday, January 23 at McKowen Church on Louise Street. That meeting was the second time the public got to weigh in on the issue, but EMS spokesman, Mike Chustz, says he heard about it for the first time recently.

"Nobody from EMS had been invited to any discussions or meetings to my knowledge and yesterday was the first time I spoke about it and saw the map and looked at the proposal," said Chustz.

Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson took the public's criticism head on at Tuesday's meeting, saying the delay in getting area first responders on track was a misstep that his folks and the city are working to fix. "I can't do anything but say I'm sorry we didn't get it the first time, but as a matter of policy, that will be done going forward," said Wilson.

Chustz says the closures on the maps that he has seen do not seem to stand in the way of residents getting helped in a potential crisis, but it is possible. "There's always a chance that it could. If a house is right next to or right across from where a railroad crossing was initially, we might have to take another route, but the way to proposal is right now, there's many ways in and out," said Chustz.

Because the plan is still in its early stages though, Chustz believes there's still time to tweak any problems that do pop up now that they are part of the process. "In a real emergency, response time is just as important as anything else, so we don't want anything to occur that would cause a delay," Chustz added.

There is still one more chance for the public to weigh in on the plan before any recommendations are made.

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