The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
|Board still exploring options for alternative exit|
Staff Photo by Charles Boothe:
This railroad crossing is on Diamond Avenue, which provides the only way in and out of an area that has about 100 households. Residents have been asking for an alternative exit for almost 40 years.
Friday, August 24, 2012
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
A flooding problem on Diamond Avenue Extension has been solved, but residents are still seeking a solution to another problem -- no alternative exit.
Up until last fall, occasional flooding where a bridge crosses Furnace Creek closed Diamond Avenue Extension, which is the only way in out of a neighborhood just west of Rocky Mount that has about 100 households.
That problem was remedied by VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) last year when larger culverts were installed and creek banking reconfigured.
But Vandel Muse, a resident of the neighborhood, told the Franklin County Board of Supervisors Tuesday that the railroad crossing on Diamond Avenue continues to present a possible hazard since there is no alternative exit.
Recent work on the railroad crossing by Norfolk Southern proved his point, he said.
"They (the railroad) blocked the exit for six hours," he said. During that time, there was not even a temporary exit available.
That's dangerous, Muse said, and residents of the neighborhood have been trying for 40 years to get another exit, but to no avail.
The neighborhood is in Franklin County but borders the town, and both county and town officials have worked to find an alternative exit over the years. But easement issues have been the problem.
"I am hoping something will be done before a tragedy strikes, not after," he said.
Muse said other people live on dead end streets, but not with a railroad crossing that creates the potential for blocking the only way in and out.
With a 44-unit elderly housing development being constructed in the neighborhood, Muse said he thought more interest in an alternative exit may be spurred.
In February 2011, Rocky Mount's Public Utilities Committee voted to advise the full council to deny the request for the housing development to be connected to the town's utilities unless a second entrance and exit to the neighborhood was developed.
"If we approve the request, we will encourage more development in an area that already has a traffic and safety problem" Councilman Bobby Cundiff said. "We need to look at safety rather than profitability."
However, the land owner and the developer of the housing development at that time agreed to provide easements across that land for an emergency exit, which could be used by the residents and other people in the neighborhood.
After being assured that a flooding problem would be eliminated and that an alternative emergency exit would be developed for the residents, Rocky Mount Town Council approved the request.
Rocky Mount District Supervisor Charles Wagner has been working on the problem for several years, and he said an easement for a road that connects the neighborhood with the Sycamore Street area was explored, but nothing could be worked out with the land owner.
Another possible connection would cross a stream, but environmental issues prevented that from moving forward, he added.
Wagner said the developer of the housing project has agreed to provide an easement across that land, which could be used as an emergency exit if the owner of an adjoining piece of property would agree.
This is the option currently being explored, he said, but the access would be used for emergencies only.
Muse urged the county and town to work together to solve the alternative exit problem.
"People need some kind of assurance that something is going to be done," he said.
Wagner said he and county Administrator Rick Huff are continuing to work on finding a solution.