The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

August 28, 2013

Train blocks crossing for more than an hour

The Commercial-News

---- — DANVILLE — Traffic was snarled on Bowman Avenue and on Griffin Street Tuesday morning when at least one CSX train was stopped on the tracks for more than an hour.

Both railroad crossings were blocked shortly after 7 a.m., hampering the efforts of some Northeast Elementary Magnet School staff and students and some Watchfire employees to get to their destinations on time.

Danville Director of Public Safety Larry Thomason said CSX notified the police department that the train was in “emergency status,” but did not have further details.

Officials at CSX headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., did not return phone calls Tuesday.

“It was horrible. It was nightmarish,” Watchfire employee Greg Thatcher said in describing Tuesday morning’s traffic jam. “I think half of the company was late.”

Thatcher said he was stopped on Bowman Avenue.

“I waited about 15 minutes. I didn’t know how long the train had been there. I turned onto Dakota Street, not realizing it was a cul de sac,” he said.

Thatcher said his biggest mistake was waiting, thinking that the train was going to soon move out of the crossing.

“I waited and I think that’s what a lot of people did,” he said. “The traffic was so much worse with the school buses.”

Thatcher said he saw Danville police in the area and wishes they would have done more to help direct traffic away from the congested area.

“They should have stopped traffic from trying to turn left at Bowman and Williams and directed it somewhere else,” he said. “It was a congested mess.”

The blocked railroad crossings also impacted Northeast Elementary Magnet School.

“It was crazy,” Northeast school secretary Brenda Hamilton said. “Some of our staff members were stopped at the tracks at 7:05 a.m., and they didn’t get here until 8:25 a.m.”

The school starts serving breakfast at 7:30 a.m., with classes beginning at 7:50 a.m.

Northeast Principal Kim Norton said she heard there might have been more than one train blocking the various crossings.

“We had some staff caught by the train, and we had a group of students on two school buses that were late,” she said.

“We had some teachers that were stopped for a good hour and 15 or 20 minutes,” Norton said.

Even though the scheduled breakfast time was over when the two busloads of children finally arrived at the school, the students still were allowed to get their meal.

“The students weren’t denied breakfast. They hurried up, and we had everyone in class by 8 a.m.,” Norton said. “They handled it very well.”

Staff reporter Mary Wicoff contributed to this story.