It’s a problem that can be frustrating at best, and life endangering at worst — a driver in Woodhaven said he waited for more than two hours at a train crossing on Van Horn Road, near Allen and Hall.
The problem stretches back years – trains stopping at intersections blocking traffic for what seems like ages. Locals who’ve lived in the area have cried fowl for years, but the real concern is an ambulance enroute to the hospital in Trenton could be stuck without the opportunity to make it with a passenger.
“We have to spend money to get it accomplished,” said State Rep. Darrin Camilleri. “If we don’t, then this issue will never go away. We’re literally putting people’s lives at risk, and this is not how we should be operating with this.”
Rep. Camilleri is working to find funding from the state, but he knows calls for money have fallen flat in the years preceding him taking office. There have been attempts to get money allocated from Congress, which have been partially successfully. In 2005, Rep. John Dingell succeeded in getting $10 million set aside for the project, but the price tag for the project — according to State Rep. Camilleri — would come in around $12.5 million higher.
There’s added urgency now because the $10 million Rep. Dingell got set aside must be allocated by September. That has the city of Woodhaven turning to its residents asking if they’d foot the bill. A millage will be voted on during a special election in May.
“I wish they’d do it,” said Tammy Kelley, who said she’d chip in to foot the bill if the overpass became a reality. “I get stuck every day. You wait forever, and when you think the train has ended it backs up and does it another 30-40 minutes.”
The issue continues to pop up because of a nearby train yard. Asked about the latest issue that spurred attention, the railroad company said to be responsible didn’t deny the two hour long wait time. CN Railway cited a communications issue telling 7 Action News by e-mail, “CN will be reviewing existing communications protocols with all parties involved in order to prevent further incidents from impacting commuters.”
While CN Railway said it was a communication issue, locals insist it’s a never-ending problem. Previously, 7 Action News has reported on issues after a man died while enroute to the hospital.
The family of Arvid Eliason believe if the ambulance carrying him hadn’t been delayed 20 minutes by the trains that had stopped on the tracks, he’d be alive today.
“We can’t give them tickets,” explained State Rep. Camilleri. “We can’t regulate them at the state level. So there really isn’t anything we can do unless the federal government acts and because they’re not we need to find ways to build bridge over these tracks to stop the traffic.”
For those who live in downriver and have to navigate trains that regularly block up to three intersections, they explain a frustrating situation — it feels like no one understands what they’re going through.
“I live on the other side of the tracks,” said Eric Carr pointing at the tracks on Van Horn near Allen and Hall. “Last night, I mean, we were at the rain for over an hour.”
“You try to avoid it, you go down another street and they’re there too,” said Kelley.
A public meeting was held in Woodhaven recently to give locals an idea of how much it would cost them to build an overpass before the money from Congress expires. A second is scheduled at City Hall on April 30th at 6 p.m. The estimated cost for the millage would run between $100 and $150 a year for the average homeowner in Woodhaven.