Making tracks

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2005

Missing: an orange Volkswagen (complete with driver and one passenger), two infants in a baby carriage and a moped rider. Last seen in the vicinity of the Church Street railroad crossing in downtown Ahoskie.

While the aforementioned is not real, it is the perception of the motoring public who seemingly risk, on a daily basis, being swallowed whole by a fast deteriorating rail crossing.

This is not late-breaking news to those living or working in Ahoskie.

The rail crossings in Ahoskie have been the subject of hundreds of discussions over the past few years. Many have called the Ahoskie Town Hall to complain, and rightly so. But you are barking up the wrong tree. The town doesn’t own or control the rail lines, just the streets that now seem to take a downward spiral towards the bowels of Earth.

Over the past few years, Ahoskie officials have begged and pleaded with the North Carolina & Virginia Railroad Company to address the rail crossings within the town. Promises were made….promises were not kept.

Church and Main streets are among the most heavily traveled roads in Ahoskie. The rail crossings on both streets are in terrible shape, so much to the point that exposed rail spikes and decaying crossties pose a mechanical hazard to vehicles. There was one report, made by the Mayor, that a senior citizen was transversing the Main Street crossing when her tire blew out.

Meanwhile, business should be booming for the front end alignment shops in town.

In all fairness to the local railroad company – one with a line running from Nucor to Boykins, Va. – they are aware of the deterioration problems to an aging rail system. They have made remarkable repairs to the crossings in Rich Square (NC 561/305) and Conway (US 158). The concrete slabs poured into those particular crossings make for an extremely smooth ride.

Plus, based upon the fact that their business has increased thanks to Nucor, proper timing could be a major issue in making the repairs.

But, as is always the case, it’s back to the question – &uot;what have you done for us lately?&uot;

The Railroad Company makes its home in Ahoskie. One would assume they would like to be a friendly corporate neighbor. They have promised to repair the Church Street crossing (with concrete) as well as make the First and Hayes streets crossings a bit smoother to transverse.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has agreed to repair (with concrete) the Main Street rail crossing. Ahoskie’s Main Street is a DOT maintained roadway. However, just as in the case of the other crossings in town, the Main Street crossing remains as a teeth-chattering, head-through-the-roof experience.

We can all hope that DOT doesn’t take as long to repair the crossing as it has to re-open Bonner’s Bridge Road – something, after well over one year, we’re all still waiting for to occur. Thank goodness we’re not holding our breath.

To date, none of the promised repair jobs are underway. To date, the motoring public is left to gently ease across all four of the main line rail crossings in Ahoskie. To date, we’ve all uttered words so ugly that they would make a sailor blush.

No, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it sure seems possible that magnificent city was constructed in a lot less time than it is taking for rail repairs in Ahoskie, and it was accomplished without a labor union.