County officials said a portion of the Marston community was endangered when CSX abruptly closed two main access roads to the Stroman Road area with little notice.
Richmond County Emergency Services and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office worked Monday night to inform residents of the Marston community about “the potentially dangerous situation,” officials said in a press release Tuesday.
“At 6:07 p.m., Richmond County 9-1-1 received a call from an individual who identified himself as someone who works with CSX,” said Emergency Services Director Donna Wright. “This individual informed the telecommunicator that CSX was closing the railroad crossing located at Marston Road. This crossing would be closed until either Thursday or Friday. The telecommunicator immediately began notifying appropriate emergency services that serve this area.”
Wright said another call came at 6:24 p.m. from the same person to Richmond County 9-1-1 “to notify dispatch the railroad crossing at Old Laural Hill Road was also closed until Thursday or Friday.”
Residents began calling 9-1-1 and the Sheriff’s Office regarding the dangers of both of these intersections being closed, she said. She and Richmond County Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. worked to make sure all residences were notified of what was learned. At 7:20 p.m. a mass notification about the railroad crossing closings was sent out informing the community.
Clemmons spoke with residents and worked with Wright to alleviate the situation, according to the press release. Both Clemmons and Wright visited the area Monday night.
“Safety of our citizens is my main priority,” said Clemmons.
“While we did receive notification of the closings, it was certainly not early enough for our citizens or emergency services to prepare,” said Wright, and Clemmons agreed.
“CSX crews do their very best to work as safely and swiftly as possible to minimize impact to vehicular traffic in the communities in which we operate,” said CSX Communications Director Carla Groleau, in a statement delivered to the Daily Journal late Tuesday. “The company apologizes for any inconvenience to our neighbors during this track maintenance work. If all goes as planned, the project will be complete Thursday.”
In her statement, Groleau gave no reason why there was such little notice of the closings given.
With the help of local the North Carolina Department of Transportation office, CSX agreed to keep the Old Laurel Hill Road railroad crossing open while work is being completed on the Marston Road crossing. Once the crossing work on Marston Road is complete, it will open and Old Laurel Hill Road crossing will close. The time frame is for all work to be complete by Friday. NCDOT also assisted with obtaining additional signs to mark the closings on U.S. Highway 1, the press release said. The Sheriff’s Office and the Richmond County Emergency Services will continue to monitor and work together to keep the citizens informed and safe, said Clemmons and Wright.
A resident of the barricaded Marston community, Terry Stroman, said the railroad crossings being closed concern her.
“Nobody told us until last night,” said Stroman on Tuesday. “I called CSX and they said I couldn’t get any information. A lot of people didn’t know what was going on. I live right on the road and watched a lot of cars come up and turn around and go back out the other way.”
Stroman said she works in Moore County, and said instead of getting on U.S. Highway 1 like always, she had to take the detour to Cognac Road, the only open access point. This caused her to be 20 minutes late to work.
“I have a child that gets on the school bus at 7:10 in the morning and the bus didn’t even come until 7:45,” said Stroman. “The school bus now has to go through Scotland County.”
“CSX created a dilemma,” said Clemmons. “If it hadn’t been for Donna’s immediate response, it could have been worse. I notified citizens but my main goal was to make sure emergency services and deputies would know.”
“The only open route is to take Cognac Road,” said Wright. “I talked to NCDOT and expressed my concerns. We are at the mercy of CSX. This is frustrating for emergency services. (The closings) take away our timeliness and effectiveness. There could be several minutes delay to our response time.”
Wright pointed out that during cardiac arrest, after several minutes permanent brain damage occurs. With 5 to 10 minutes added to response time, a cardiac arrest could prove fatal, she said.
Monday night, EMS worked together to create a map to hand out to ambulance drivers, should they need to respond to the closed off area of Marston. Fire chiefs and law enforcement were notified of the closings as well.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.