Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said he would consider closing Main Street at the CSX railroad tracks to buses and trucks with long wheelbases after a bus became stuck on the tracks and was hit by a train, the latest of three such crashes.
For the first time Tuesday, the results were deadly, with four senior citizens killed aboard a packed charter bus from Texas. Forty-one were treated for injuries.
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Gilich said he wanted to talk to officials from CSX and the National Transportation Safety Board, which is collecting “perishable evidence” from the scene of Tuesday afternoon’s accident.
“We’re aware of the accident history here,” said Laura Phelps, media relations manager with CSX. “We are focused on working on site with the National Transportation Safety Board. That’s our focus right now.
“Obviously, we’re going to continue working with the city of Biloxi on this issue and we’re going to continue to discuss ways to improve safety here.”
Because the track’s crossing gates at this major intersection were damaged in the crash, the train will now stop short of Main Street and have crew members get out to set up flares before trains cross the intersection, Phelps said. She did not know when the crossing gates would be replaced.
The crossing is marked with warning signs on both sides that say, “Low ground clearance,” and picture a truck getting stuck.
“Those signs are at other crossings in Biloxi, too,” city spokesman Vincent Creel said. “Crossings of this type are not exclusive to Biloxi. You will find them all across the Coast and the nation.”
The city and CSX are working on plans to close as many as six crossings in East Biloxi, but not the one on Main Street. Of the city’s 29 railroad crossings, Creel said, 20 are in East Biloxi, an area where the population has thinned since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
The closings the CSX and the city are thinking of closing are all in East Biloxi — at Nixon, Holley, Dorries and Iroquois streets and Keller and Querenes avenues.
An NTSB spokesman said the agency has no immediate plans to recommend closure of the Main Street crossing to trucks and buses, but will be talking further with CSX and local officials. The agency does sometimes issue “urgent” recommendations when investigating an accident.