The negotiations among Union County, the town of Thayer and BNSF over the future of railroad crossings shows how important having appropriate access to safety is important no matter where one lives.
There are certain challenges, discomforts and or inconveniences for living in rural America. It’s probably a trade off for no traffic noise, unobstructed views of sunsets and sunrises. By and large, those in charge of emergency services have found ways to access those people who live on farms or acreages miles and multiple turns from hospitals and fire hydrants.
Making it even more of a challenge for emergency services is not the best solution.
BNSF has offered to pay for a new overpass in Thayer but the ultimate cost is expected to be the closing of an at-grade crossing somewhere in the county. (At-grade is when the vehicle actually drives over the tracks. South Elm Street in Creston is an example). Thayer has two rail crossings.
Thayer Mayor Jennifer Mitchell, who has represented her town very well during this time, does not want emergency service access to get more difficult. Thayer does not have a franchise business of any kind as there are others who have their own private, establishment. Thayer is not growing with population or amenities people stand in line.
A new, modern overpass would be ideal as Thayer’s wooden overpass now has a weight limit that doesn’t make many of today’s truck and tractor drivers comfortable, let alone eligible to drive over.
But there are still people in Thayer who could easily use 911 for whatever reason. There are people outside of Thayer who could also call 911 and the best way for the needed agency to get to them is through Thayer. If the county’s farm to market road through Thayer is relocated to a new overpass on Fifth Avenue, certain streets in Thayer would probably have to be greatly improved to meet farm to market requirements creating substantially more expense.
Many of Thayer’s streets are not in great condition and in a town that has a budget where resurfacing a couple of blocks would be a major hit.
County officials have relayed how BNSF also wants to lower its liability with those at-grade crossings. The fewer of them they have, the more at ease they can be. Unfortunately, neighboring Clarke County had a fatal accident at one of those crossings in May.
It would be as unfortunate for an ambulance that had to go a few minutes longer to reach a rural person in legitimate need. Every second counts for response time. Every railroad crossing also counts, too.
Creston News Advertiser editorial by Managing Editor John Van Nostrand