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Published: Thursday, 4/12/2007

Ottawa County reports progress in easing rail-crossing woes

Discussion during an afternoon meeting of Ottawa County and Norfolk Southern representatives offered reason for hope for relief from the county's recent problems with trains blocking road crossings, Sheriff Bob Bratton said yesterday evening.

"We heard some things that we think they're going to help out," the sheriff said at the end of the four-hour session.

Positive steps include renewed pledges from Norfolk Southern to avoid stopping trains on certain roads that are priority routes for emergency vehicles, including Lickert-Harder, Benton-Carroll, Rocky Ridge, True, and Genoa-Clay Center roads and State Rt. 590, Sheriff Bratton said.

The railroad also provided county officials with several phone numbers, including a direct line to a railroad command center in Dearborn, Mich., that can be used in emergencies.

"We're going to work toward certain short-term solutions, including avoiding certain crossings," Rudy Husband, a Norfolk Southern spokesman, said yesterday evening.

"The main point was just to re-establish good lines of communication," he added.

But the proof will be in the results, and Sheriff Bratton said he may still follow through on threats to arrest train crews and file criminal charges against Norfolk Southern if trains continue to block, or resume blocking, county roads for extended periods.

"We're going to monitor the situation and meet every two weeks" for progress reports, the sheriff said.

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