Flowery Branch is looking at closing a railroad crossing near downtown and approaching Hall County about closing another one to help free up trains from its high-traffic crossing at Lights Ferry Road.
“This is obviously a very serious issue for the community, and a lot of people feel we need three crossings,” City Manager Bill Andrew said during a discussion of the issue at the City Council meeting Thursday, Aug. 2.
The three Norfolk Southern crossings Andrew is referring to are at Lights Ferry Road and Spring and Chattahoochee streets, all connecting to Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13, which runs parallel to the railroad through downtown.
Lights Ferry Road has become the busiest of the three due to a 2016 city project that created a straight shot for motorists between McEver Road and Interstate 985. The project included a much-used roundabout at Mitchell Street.
“What we have found is that Spring and Chattahoochee aren’t efficiently doing anything (with traffic) and certainly aren’t doing anything if the train is parked there, anyway,” Andrew said.
Officials talked particularly about closing the Chattahoochee crossing, as Spring is closer to Lights Ferry, and approaching Hall County closing the crossing at Radford Road, which is farther north and provides a direct link between McEver and Ga. 13.
“Radford Road is currently our truck route out of Atlanta Highway,” Andrew said. “That doesn’t make sense going forward because of … H.F. Reed (Industrial Parkway).”
H.F. Reed, which is north of Radford, has a bridge over the railroad and would direct motorists to Interstate 985 via the new Exit 14, which is under construction and expected to be finished in the fall of 2019.
Part of the Radford crossing is in Flowery Branch and part of it’s in unincorporated Hall.
A couple of factors are making the whole issue more urgent.
Hundreds more homes near downtown are on the way or being planned. One development alone — between McEver Road and Gainesville Street — features 320 homes.
Also, Norfolk Southern has funding through the end of the year for a signal that would help guide trains to clear the Lights Ferry crossing.
Mayor Mike Miller jokingly asked William Miller of Norfolk Southern if the new system would cut down on the number of texts and emails he gets from motorists stuck at the Lights Ferry crossing.
“It’s going to have a tremendous impact,” William Miller said. “I wouldn’t want to be quoted in (the) minutes, but I’d say it’s going to reduce (stops) by 75 percent.”
Also, as part of helping traffic flow at the Lights Ferry crossing, the city is looking at making Railroad Avenue a one-way street between Lights Ferry and Main Street. Under the plan, motorists wouldn’t be able to travel Railroad Avenue from Main to Lights Ferry.