Baton Rouge residents upset over proposed railroad crossing closures
BATON ROUGE - Many residents at a public meeting Monday night were angry that six railroad crossings near downtown could get closed. The proposal to improve safety at the sixteen crossings is a partnership between the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the East Baton Rouge City-Parish and the Kansas City Southern Railroad company.
Ten of the crossings between the LSU Lakes and Spanish Town Road would get improvements like new crossing arms, brighter caution lights, and sidewalks. Those crossings include: North Street, Main Street, Laurel Street, Florida Boulevard, Convention Street, Government Street, Wisteria Street, Myrtle Walk Street, Terrace Avenue and Louise Street.
The six crossings that would be closed are: Gayosa Street, South Boulevard, Julia Street, Smith Street, Orange Street and Apple Street.
"The way the streets will be blocked off will cause more traffic build-up," said resident Levert Kemp. "Certain times during rush hour, Government Street is already packed."
State Representative Pat Smith said she fears officials will ignore the concerns of the predominately African-American residents who live in the neighborhood.
"People feel like they're at the public meeting for nothing, their opinion doesn't matter and it's going to happen anyway," said Smith. "I'm tired of that happening to our neighborhood."
The Baton Rouge Democrat is particularly concerned about the proposed closure of the South Boulevard crossing, a major thoroughfare in the area.
State officials stress there is no final plan and no time frame to begin construction.
"We understand there are people who don't want these crossings closed," said DOTD spokesperson Rodney Mallett. "We want to gather public comment and get public input for these projects."
Mallett said public comments can still be submitted through the mail. He also said there may be future meetings on the issue.