METAIRIE, La. — For those who travel Metairie Road in Old Metairie on a regular basis, waiting for a train to clear the railroad crossing is a frequent occurrence.
“They’ve been like this for a long, so you have to have patience and wait or turn around and go back the other way,” driver Levi Bates said.
“I’m trying to get to an appointment and it’s aggravating,” driver Jamie Gilberti said. “It’s hit or miss. This time I missed.”
In most cases, the train passes there in about 15 minutes.
Saturday morning into the early afternoon, drivers had to wait for about three hours for the crossing to clear.
Beth Harris who owns Relish, a boutique not far from the tracks, says it was a real mess.
“You could just fire a cannon off,” Harris said. “There were no cars in the parking lot. People were really frustrated. People were looking like they were trying to go around it. My concern is always, there’s young kids that they’re going to try to go under it.”
Norfolk Southern railroad released a statement saying, “This train was stopped due to a mechanical issue with a signal ahead, signals essentially being the traffic lights of the railroad.”
Jefferson Parish Councilman At Large Scott Walker said he made some calls after residents started contacting him about the stoppage.
“What I found out is that it was a battery failure, and this isn’t the type of battery you can pick up a CVS,” Walker said. “It’s a major piece of equipment.”
The battery the railroad needed and the closest crew to install it were two hours away,” Walker added.
Harris said that makes this train stoppage all the more frustrating.
“We all have to live together, but three hours and not having people here to fix whatever problem in New Orleans, that’s just not acceptable.”
Councilman Walker said the railroads are heavily protected by federal law and there is very little Jefferson Parish can do address the issue of long wait times at railroad crossings.
“It’s as much of an inconvenience for me as anybody else,” Walker said. “I live around here. But I think it’s a fact of life here. “
JP is now working on a train tracker app where drivers can check online or their mobile devices if there’s a train passing at a certain crossing like the one on Metairie Road.
In a statement, JP President Cynthia Lee Sheng said, “The Metairie Road railroad crossing has long been an extremely active location within Jefferson Parish. Our Traffic Engineering Department has been working with Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken and a third-party engineering firm to develop a user-friendly train detection system mobile app that will allow advance notice of oncoming trains and the status of the crossing to determine if it is blocked. This will allow for drivers to reroute their trip accordingly to avoid congestion and delays. Equipment for the system has been installed and testing is underway.”
In July, WWL-TV reported a live camera feed was set up for residents to check if there’s a train blocking the railroad crossing on Little Farms Avenue.
JP Councilmember Jennifer Van Vrancken said a similar camera has now been installed showing the Metairie Road Crossing.
That camera went live on Monday.
You can see it here.
Here is Norfolk Southern’s full statement:
“This train was stopped due to a mechanical issue with a signal ahead, signals essentially being the traffic lights of the railroad. We dispatched the closest member of our Communications & Signals team to repair the issue, and the train moved without incident in just a few hours. These devices are inspected monthly to ensure they are functioning as expected, but of course on rare occasions an issue can arise unexpectedly. We appreciate the public’s understanding during incidents where safety simply has to come first."