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No chaos… yet

Traffic flow affected, but not badly, after city’s main intersection blocked


News Staff Writer

Atmore police continued early Tuesday (October 25) to monitor the traffic situation within the city after CSX Transportation closed the city’s main intersection late Monday night.

Chief Chuck Brooks said things moved smoothly overnight and continued to do so into Tuesday morning, even during the rush hour, but he anticipated that the situation could change before the day is out.

“We’ve had no problems at this time,” the police chief said around 8:18 a.m., about nine hours after the rail company blocked the Main Street-Nashville Avenue intersection to conduct badly needed repairs and upgrades on the crossing that is the city’s north-south dividing line.

City crews were out this morning extending the blockade, posting “Road Closed” signs that sends northbound South Main Street motorists onto Church Street and southbound North Main traffic onto Ridgeley Street.

Brooks agreed that the detour signs directing tractor-trailer rigs off U.S. 31 and onto North Trammell and North Presley streets — as well as the ones directing southbound truck traffic off Alabama 21 onto Howard Street and taking them to Swift Mill Road — would probably create some traffic snags.

“It will definitely affect traffic,” he said of the added activity on roads already heavily traveled. “At this time, it has not, but as traffic picks up, I’m sure it will.”

With the closure of a state highway in play, there were only so many options available for handling semi travel.

“It’s a minor inconvenience, but when you close a state highway that is heavily traveled, you have to make some changes,” Brooks added. “Regular cars can divert around it pretty easily, it’s just a block or so, but those trucks need extra room to make turns.

“At one point, (Alabama Department of Transportation officials) wanted to send them out Sunset Drive to Martin Luther King, but there’s a severe incline there at the tracks, and they’d get hung up there.”

Mayor Jim Staff predicted at the end of Monday’s city council meeting that the closing would create a brief state of chaos and asked Brooks how long the project is expected to take.

“It’s going to be pandemonium until about Thursday, isn’t it Chief?” the mayor asked.

Brooks said CSX officials had notified him that the crossing upgrades would take at least until midweek to complete.

“They’re saying either Wednesday or Thursday (October 26 or 27),” the police chief replied, noting the track crews are expected to move to the 2nd Avenue crossing when the Main-Nashville work is done.

He said after the meeting he was glad railroad officials let city officials in on their crossing closure plans. For about two weeks in April, CSX placed signage all along Main Street announcing that the main intersection would soon be closed, but never alerted the city as to the impending closing.

CSX officials changed their minds at the last minute, eventually leaving the city’s main thoroughfare open while railroad crews worked on other crossings.

“I’m just happy that they called this time and gave us several weeks’ notice,” Brooks said. “We were able to put something out on Facebook to let people know.”

Will the intersection’s blockage create the chaos the mayor predicted?

“I hope not,” the police chief said. “We’re going to monitor it and see how it does go. That’s about all we can do right now.”