First responders, residents fed up with freight train blocking Florence County road

Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 7:47 PM EST
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FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - It’s like a bad movie that some in Florence County say is stuck on repeat.

The leading actor? A freight train that residents say blocks a road they need immediate access to.

It’s happening on North Firetower Road, just a few miles from Francis Marion University.

Several residents spoke with WMBF News about the roadblock issue, saying the entire experience is frustrating.

Sometimes it happens for hours, or even days, at a time - and those in the area want the company responsible to do something about it.

One man we spoke to said he lives within walking distance of where the trains stop. Normally, he’d take North Firetower Road to access East Palmetto Street - but when the train blocks the road, the alternate route adds 10 extra minutes to driving time.

In the end, it’s costing him time and gas money that he can’t get back.

Residents aren’t the only ones expressing their concerns, though.

Windy Hill Volunteer Fire Company Chief John Delung says his responders also use North Firetower Road to get to nearby neighborhoods.

Delung said when the train blocks the road, it cuts off the agency’s ability to quickly respond to the northern part of their district. He says the next best alternate route adds an additional 10-15 minutes to their response time.

Recently, he says it took crews longer to get to an emergency because of a train blocking the road.

Delung says he and other neighbors are doing all they can to get this fixed. He says they’ve been calling the company listed on the track signs, CSX Transportation. To their surprise, Delung said the agency doesn’t seem to understand where the freights are parked at.

“They’re stating this train is actually not parked here. It’s actually parked in the Pee Dee community of Marion County. Which is an open area, there’s no crossings. I give them the crossing number. I touch the train, [I tell them] I’m looking at the train on North Firetower Road,” he said.

If this situation isn’t resolved, Delung is worried things will only get worse.

“Just imagine if someone you loved or cared about lived on the other side of the track and we were delayed 10-15 minutes going to a structure fire or heart attack,” he said. “It not only affects us, but it will also affect some people in the long term.”

WMBF News reached out to CSX on Wednesday and received this response:

CSX strives to be a good neighbor in the communities where we operate, and we work hard to minimize the impact of our operations. CSX apologizes to the residents of Florence County for any delays as a result of our train operations. There are times when mechanical and operational issues could result in blocked crossings, as well as when trains may stop for mandatory safety inspections, federally-regulated crew changes, and when trains enter or exit busy rail yards. We work hard to serve our customers and South Carolina communities as safely and efficiently as possible, and our operations team is committed to reducing occurrences that impact drivers or normal traffic flow.”

We also asked about possible solutions to the trains, but are waiting to hear back.

WMBF News is also contacting state leaders to see if there’s anything they can do towards finding a long-term solution.

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