Residents say CSX off-track in decision to close Apex, Cary rail crossings at same time

Posted January 28, 2016 7:29 p.m. EST

— Residents in Apex and Cary are fuming over a maintenance project to a rail line that runs through both towns that has closed more than half a dozen crossings simultaneously this week.

CSX is replacing old rail ties and repaving the crossings for a smoother ride for drivers, but the closures have been anything but smooth for some.

"It was a nightmare," Cary resident Melvin Matthews said of the resulting gridlock.

Pleasant Plains Road is the only way in and out of the Kirkwood Subdivision in Apex, but it was closed off Tuesday and Wednesday so CSX crews could work.

"We were landlocked for practically all of two days," Tony Santitoro said of the 40 or so homes in the neighborhood.

Santitoro said his mother had to miss two days of physical therapy for her broken back.

"We tried ahead of time to contact CSX to let them know what our issues were, but it just turned into a two-day disaster," he said.

Some residents called the multiple closures a public safety issue, questioning whether it would delay fire trucks or ambulances in an emergency.

"If it was an emergency repair, it would be more understandable. This is a maintenance repair. There's no justification to close that many intersections in the same jurisdiction at one time," Matthews said.

Apex officials were able to station police at key intersections by Thursday to limit traffic snarls and ensure emergency vehicles could get where they are needed, Mayor Lance Olive said.

Olive said the biggest complaint he's heard from residents has been about the lack of advanced notice of the closures. The town typically likes to give residents a one- to two-week heads-up for a project of this magnitude.

"We understand they have full authority on the railroad and railway but want them to recognize that they are an integrated part of our community," Olive said. "We’d like to work together for common purposes, and there are citizens impacted by their decision, and (we) want to make sure they are well-informed."

A CSX spokeswoman apologized for the inconvenience and any miscommunication about notifications of the work, but she said the maintenance is necessary.

"Maintaining railroad infrastructure is critical to avoiding service disruptions and preventing accidents and injuries," Kristin Seay said in an email to WRAL News.

Seay said the crossings at Laura Duncan Road and Center Street should reopen Friday, weather permitting, while work should be done on the Tingen Road crossing by Saturday, on the East Chatham Street crossing in Apex by next Tuesday and on the Friendship Road crossing by next Wednesday.

More closures are planned next week, however. The crossing on SW Maynard Road is expected to be closed Monday and Tuesday; Bosco Road in New Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday; Mason Road in New Hill on Wednesday and Thursday; and New Hill Road on Thursday and Friday.