“They Don’t Care”: An Ottumwa woman petitions for a moved train yard after trains block intersections for more than an hour

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 10:14 PM CDT
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - The intersection of Blackhawk Road and North Quincy Avenue is reportedly blocked off for sometimes up to an hour as trains sit at the nearby train yard. The railway company, Canadian Pacific, says they’re inspecting air brakes or changing out crews.

But Trisha Rea, who works on Blackhawk Road, is frustrated when those trains block the intersection to her business. And it inconveniences her customers. And even more seriously, Rea worries a train could block a ambulance or fire engine in an emergency. “A car accident, a heart attack, anything. The emergency vehicles can’t get through.” Besides, she says, this has only become an issue in the last year. Before then, trains sat at the intersection for around 10 minutes. She mentioned two examples on Tuesday where trains sat in the intersection for much longer than 10 minutes.

And if the Blackhawk and Quincy intersection is blocked, the only other option is 2 miles down Highway 34 to 87th and 163rd. But a rail crosses that road, as well. And Rea says it is also sometimes blocked.

Eventually, Rea got fed up. She started a petition. Now, it has over 530 signatures.

Rea says she wants the train yard moved further west, to where it won’t block homes and businesses. And she thinks it’s financially feasible for the company. “If they have money to pay fines all day long for blocking the crossing, then they should have enough funds to move their yard.”

Her search for signatures led her to Mayor Tom Lazio, who says the city is also helping get public support to pay attention to the blocked intersection. The mayor says they’ve “written letters, we’ve called, and I know the people in that neighborhood have done the same thing. So we’re trying to get some attention to it.”

And since the company, Canadian Pacific, is federally regulated, Rea also talked to Representative Marianette Miller-Meeks, who directed her to a Canadian Pacific official’s number to call whenever there’s a blockage. Rea says sometimes a call moves the train along, but other times it will still sit there.

Canadian Pacific tells KYOU they’re aware of the complaints and they’re looking at the operating practices to reduce how long trains are sitting in the intersection. But Rea isn’t convinced. “I just feel like, like they don’t care. It’s just a disregard for, you know, our safety and convenience.”

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