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Dead ends unacceptable at Hickory rail crossing

By Staff
Feb. 11, 2001
While the death toll continues to mount, a state agency and the Town of Hickory remain at loggerheads over what action should be taken at the Smede Street rail crossing.
This is the deadly crossing where three lives have been tragically lost in the past 15 months as motorists collided with Kansas City Southern freight trains. No one ever wins a collision with a freight train, as articles last week in The Meridian Star revealed anew.
As tragic as the loses have been for family and friends of the victims, the real tragedy is that they all could have been avoided. First, and perhaps the most important lesson to be learned, is that every driver must yield to an oncoming train.
Simple advice
Trains move with visually deceptive speed and when your view is near head-on  as when you try to beat a train to a crossing it is almost impossible to tell how fast the train is moving or how long it will take to reach the same point as your vehicle.
Simple advice: Always heed the alarm bells and flashing lights or gates at all posted rail crossings. Otherwise, stop, look both ways and yield the right-of-way to oncoming trains.
That said, three fatalities at the same crossing in a small town like Hickory should serve as a loud warning that immediate action is necessary. It is unacceptable for the Town of Hickory and the Mississippi Department of Transportation to remain in a stalemate over whether to upgrade the Smede Street crossing or simply close it down.
Best approach
In view of the fact that another crossing exists just a few hundred yards away, the best approach seems to be to close Smede Street. Town officials should take that action immediately, as MDOT recommended nearly a year and a half ago. MDOT Commissioner Dick Hall even said his department will provide the signage at no cost to the Town of Hickory.
MDOT will also assume the costs of upgrading the Highway 503 crossing with new safety features.
It makes no sense to seek fault. The time has come to seek solutions.
When the rhetorical question is asked "How many more people have to die before action is taken at the Smede Street crossing in Hickory?" the only acceptable answer is "none."