Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

EDITORIAL >> City seeks meeting with UP on crossing

Gary Fletcher, Jacksonville’s new mayor, is working to correct a wrong and open the barricaded Graham Road railroad crossing, which has cut off a third of the city’s residents.

After Jacksonville officials informed the state High-way Department about plans to open the crossing, the department, voicing no objections, suggested the city negotiate with the Union Pacific about opening the crossing.

The city this week requested a meeting with the railroad. If a crossing is built, Jacksonville will probably refund Union Pacific $75,000 the railroad gave the city to close the crossing to make way for the Main Street overpass. The city might also have to pay the railroad the cost of the new crossing. But Jacksonville could recoup that money in a year or two from sales taxes that were lost when several businesses shut down because of the closing.

No economic-impact study was made before the city chose to close the crossing. Everyone knew that retail businesses had no chance of surviving with traffic being diverted to Main Street. That means people in Sunnyside have no place nearby to shop for milk or orange juice or buy gas or go to the laundromat.

Since many of the neighborhood residents are poor, they often have no cars and cross the railroad track on foot when they go shopping elsewhere.

The barrier has forced residents and emergency vehicles to make detours over the Main Street overpass. One unintended consequence has been reduced traffic on Graham Road as many locals and nearby Lonoke County residents have mostly abandoned the road and driven to Cabot and Lonoke to shop without a detour.

That reduced traffic means that Graham Road is no longer a top priority for widening. But putting a crossing there will mean more traffic, more convenience and more business for everyone on both sides of the track.