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Maples irate at city decision to close Arundel rail crossing

By Staff
WARNING Cars will soon stop passing over railroad tracks on Arundel Road because the city plans to permanently close the crossing. A sign at the crossing was installed to warn motorists of the impending closure. Photo by Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
March 6, 2001
Meridian businessman Dudley Maples has hired an attorney in hopes of persuading city leaders to stop the closure of a railroad crossing located near his business.
The crossing at the intersection of Arundel Road and Highway 19 North was originally scheduled to be closed March 1, but the closing has now been pushed back to March 15. The postponement came after Maples protested the city's decision, which he says would adversely affect his business, Maples Gas Company Inc., located about a half-mile from the crossing at 202 Highway 19 North.
City council members approved an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railroad on Feb. 20 to close not only the Arundel Road crossing, but also a rail crossing on 17th Avenue.
Maples and his attorney, David Linder, are expected to appear at the city council's 9 a.m. meeting today in hopes of finding some resolution to the problem.
Linder said the city did not give citizens enough advance notice that the crossings could be closed, as he says the law requires, despite a sign being erected announcing the closure of the crossing several days ago.
Linder also contends the city lacks authority to close the crossing.
Meridian Chief Administrative Officer Ken Storms said although he would not discuss the details of matter because of possible litigation against the city, he did say the MDOT was part of the process in closing the crossing.
Storms said the decision was made to close the Arundel Road crossing in order to help relieve rail congestion along 49th Avenue.
Storms said a recent count by the MDOT showed more than 3,100 cars travel on 49th Avenue daily.
In exchange for closing the crossing, Storms said MDOT and Norfolk Southern agreed to spend more than $100,000 to improve paving on 49th Avenue and to smooth the train crossing at the intersection. In addition, Storms said Norfolk Southern eventually will replace some older rails around Union Station with newer rails that can handle heavier loads.
Although Maples' business has alternate routes open for travel in town, Linder said the closing of the crossing would be inconvenient for Maples and others, who live and work in the vicinity.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.