CSX has apologized for not giving Apex and Cary residents enough notice before railwork shut down many major intersections in both towns, causing traffic backups and minor delays with Cary’s transit service.
CSX Transportation, which owns the rail lines that run through town, closed down many major crossings this week for maintenance. CSX gave Apex officials a one-day notice, said interim Town Manager Drew Havens. Town staff hurried to alert residents and arrange for police officers to help direct traffic and respond to blocked roads.
“We found out on Sunday – a little bit by accident, really – that this was going to occur,” Havens said.
Cary released road closing information Monday, Jan. 25, as well. There were several crossings closed in west Cary near the Apex border.
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Cary spokeswoman Susan Moran said that drivers “who have reached out have generally been extremely frustrated. As soon as we found out, we did issue a traffic alert and created a web page to spread the word.”
CSX spokesperson Kristin Seay said in an email the work being done won’t just help the railroad, but it also will leave each crossing repaved and smoother for passing cars.
“We apologize to the community for the miscommunication regarding notifications and timing of this work,” she wrote.
In a town that sprouted up around rail-based commerce, many of the roads in Apex still intersect with rail lines 143 years after its founding.
The railroad crossings at Tingen Road, Chatham Street, Center Street and Hunter Street closed on Tuesday, Jan. 26, essentially putting a stranglehold on all traffic in and around downtown throughout the rest of the week.
“These closures have caused a lot of issues to the business and residents of Apex,” wrote Cody Rowland, a local barista, on the town’s Facebook page Wednesday. “Specifically downtown. It took me 30 minutes to drive 1 mile today.”
It also caused confusion with school bus routes that led to delays. School officials said they also received late notice about the closings from towns.
“Day one of the closings was pretty problematic with traffic,” Mayor Lance Olive said. “Most people were unaware. ... So they spent an hour in traffic on what normally wouldve been a five-minute drive.”
CSX later announced closings in more rural areas to the west of Apex during the first few days of February – a move that has worried drivers because some of the work cuts off dead-end streets.
Generally, Havens said, the town tries to be more involved in disruptive projects. But Apex has little power over what CSX can do because it’s regulated by the federal government.
“We like to meet with the contractor and talk with them about the intended and unintended consequences,” Havens said. “With this one, we had a few hours’ notice.”
Olive said he asked CSX to give more advance warning in the future.
“Hopefully they’ll be better neighbors,” he said. “That decision is entirely up to them.”
Last week, a different CSX effort raised statewide anger and earned a rebuke from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office.
The company announced plans to build a large shipping hub in Johnston County. But it didn’t notify local landowners or political leaders until the day before, when representatives went door to door offering to either buy people’s land or take it through eminent domain.
Johnston County officials are trying to find another suitable site nearby, but CSX has said it won’t participate in that effort.
The recent work in Apex isn’t the first time residents have had concerns about the train company. For years, residents have complained that the company violates its own policies at its downtown switching station, running operations in the middle of the night, ignoring quiet zones and leaving engines idling at all hours.
In addition to the noise and fumes, homeowners have complained of thick layers of black soot and of possible structural damage to their homes caused by the constant rumbling of the idling engines.
Last year Apex leaders discussed paying CSX to leave downtown and move its switching station elsewhere, possibly the New Hill area. But they estimated it might cost $10 million, so they’re holding out hope for federal funding.
John Dillard, CSX’s director of state government affairs, said at the time that CSX would be open to discussions about leaving downtown. He also said the workers on the ground would be notified of complaints.
“I understand the frustration and am continuing to make our operating team, at all levels, aware of specific complaints and issues as they arise,” Dillard wrote in response to emails from several angry residents.
Joe Howard, who has led the opposition against CSX’s downtown operations, wrote an email to local business and political leaders after the recent issues with the crossings. He said the problem illustrates the need to move the switching station.
“My dealings with CSX have led me to view them as just a big, fat, gross, spoiled billion dollar baby who cares for nothing but itself,” Howard wrote. “CSX devours anyone and anything in its path with no (conscience) at all.”
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran
Closings in February
As of Friday, Jan. 29, CSX has planned the following closings. For updates, check CSX messageboards or the Town of Apex’s website and Facebook page.
▪ Tingen Road, Apex: Closed, plan to re-open Saturday, Jan. 30
▪ Friendship Road, Apex: Closed, plan to re-open Wednesday, Feb. 3
▪ Southwest Maynard Road between West Chatham Street to Old Apex Road, Cary: Closing Monday Feb. 1. Plan to re-open Tuesday evening, Feb. 2
▪ High House Road between Old Apex Road and West Chatham Street, Cary: Closing Monday, Feb. 1
▪ Old Apex Road between Murphy Drive and Falcone Parkway, Cary: Closing Monday, Feb. 1
▪ Bosco Road, New Hill: Closing Tuesday Feb. 2. Plan to re-open Wednesday evening, Feb. 3
▪ Mason Road, New Hill: Closing Wednesday, Feb. 3. Plan to re-open Thursday evening, Feb. 4
▪ New Hill Road, New Hill: Closing Thursday, Feb. 4. Plan to re-open Friday evening, Feb. 5