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Look both ways before you cross the tracks, Feb. 14, 2006

Boy, I sure am glad I was able to talk my wife out of buying that house in Old Mill Creek several months ago.

Old Mill Creek is an over-priced subdivision, like all of them in Suffolk, off Wilroy Road that has only one access point…guarded by railroad tracks.

The Pilot reported yesterday that once some port opens in Portsmouth next year, mile-long trains will be passing through our fair city several times a day, taking up to nine or 10 minutes to pass. The trains will pass by Old Mill Creek, trapping people in and keeping fire trucks, ambulances and police out.

I wonder how many accidents we’ll see at that crossing with drivers knowing if they don’t make a run for it they’ll be stuck there for a long time?

I once lived in a town in Arkansas that had a train problem. Mena was a small town on the Oklahoma border that was built by the Kansas City Southern Railroad, the halfway point between Kansas City and Port Arthur, Tex.

Trains frequently passed through Mena at a speed of about 20 miles per hour and they went right through the middle of town, right across our Main Street.

One Sunday the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette did an expose on dangerous railroad crossings in the state. The one at Main Street, Mena was listed as the most dangerous in the state. In the preceding year, there were 12 car-train collisions at the crossing, mercifully, nobody had been killed.

Not more than two weeks after the story in the Gazette, the railroad filed papers to increase the speed limit through Mena to 40 miles per hour.

The Mena Star covered it, of course. We interviewed our police chief and he gave us my favorite newspaper quote in more than 20 years in the business.

“We have the most dangerous crossing in the state here, but fortunately nobody’s been killed. I guess they figured they weren’t hitting them hard enough.”

I doubt those Old Mill Creek houses will be overpriced for long.