‘What happens in an emergency?’ Train blocks Chesapeake neighborhood for an hour

Posted at 8:43 PM, Oct 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-27 23:18:28-04

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - For those living in the Cedar Grove Neighborhood, the sound of a train and the occasional waiting for it to pass, are all part of living there.

The railroad blocks the only entrance into the neighborhood and the only exit out of it.

"There's no other way around it, you just have to sit there and wait," says Cynthia James, a resident of the neighborhood since 2003.

It's an annoyance that became a safety hazard last week.

Neighbors tell News 3 that a CSX train actually stopped on the track and did not move again for an hour.

During that entire time, people could not get to their homes and could not leave.

"What happens if there is an emergency?" says Joseph Shirey. From his home, he was blocked from leaving the neighborhood.

"Especially a medical emergency, you only have so much time to get to said person," he says.

Neighbors tell News 3 there are a lot of senior citizens in the homes, which have been there for decades.

"It could be detrimental, because no way they could come around another route and get in here," says Algie Hill Senior.

According to Chesapeake Public Works, it is entirely up to the railroad as to where the tracks go and where there are crossings.

A spokeswoman for CSX gave News 3 a statement about the incident, saying:

"We apologize for the inconvenience this caused for our neighbors in the area. Federal regulations limit crews to 12 hours of consecutive on-duty time after which they must take a prescribed rest period. To meet those shift regulations, crews are transported to and from trains at the beginning and ends of their shifts. CSX makes every effort to plan so that crews can change shifts where vehicle and train traffic is not disrupted and the surrounding community is not impacted. In this case, the crew was headed toward a junction with another local railroad and the crew reached their 12-hour on-duty limit while waiting for clearance to safely proceed across those tracks. CSX worked quickly to find another local crew at a nearby rail yard and transport them to the stopped train. We make every effort to minimize these incidents and limit impacts on communities where we operate, and we encourage anyone to report blocked crossings by calling us at 1-877-TellCSX (1-877-835-5279)."

Captain Scott Saunders, Assistant Fire Marshal of the Chesapeake Fire Department, says they would do whatever it would take to get inside the neighborhood if they needed to get through and a train was blocking traffic, even if they had to go on foot. He says they would first start by calling CSX to get the train moving or to let them through.

A public works official says the geography in the area is challenging, so they do not have any current plans of making an emergency access route.

Neighbors say they hope it does not take an emergency to change that.