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Federal Railroad Administration weighs in on Savannah train issues

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Short and long term solutions being proposed by city leaders in solving the Savannah train issues (Credit:Robert Catanese)

Details are emerging from a meeting between Savannah city officials and representatives of railway Genesee and Wyoming that took place on Wednesday.

City Spokesperson Michelle Gavin confirmed that an aide from Congressman Buddy Carter’s office also attended the meeting.

It was a meeting of the minds to try and resolve the ongoing train issues plaguing commuters on President Street, residents in the Victorian District and emergency personnel response times.

We have to free up that traffic that gets congested and backed up all through downtown when the railroad comes to a stop during those critical times of rush hour,” said Gavin.

Related: Savannah train troubles raising concerns for city officials, Rep. Carter

FOX 28 reached out to Michael E. Williams who is the spokesperson for G&W.

He told us via email correspondence, "I do not have anything to add to my statement of April 4, which described the situation in detail.”

But, when we pressed Williams to explain the frequent delays that were not only logged by city officials but presented to G&W at Wednesdays meeting, he simply emailed the same statement released April 4.

“We wanted to show them that we have evidence of how long the railroad has been blocking this intersection and it truly is not just an inconvenience, but can be a public safety issue,” said Gavin.

Related: Residents and emergency personnel share concerns over train issues, Alderman weighs in

FOX 28 obtained, through an open records request with the city, the delay logs for the past month compiled by officials.

Infractions were noted both during the morning and afternoon rush hours and delay times exceeded 20 minutes at times.

We reached out to the Federal Railroad Administration and they confirmed to us that not only is it the railroad's responsibility to maintain, inspect and test railroad crossings, but that Genesee and Wyoming is in violation of federal law when triggering crossing warning alarms by stacking their trains. Under 49 CFR section 234.209 Interference with normal functioning of system, FRA specifically prohibits railroads from improperly activating grade crossing warning devices.

There are both short and long term goals city officials say need to occur and are pursuing.

Short term, they advise residents and commuters to call 311 and report future delays and they say communications will continue with the county and federal partners.

Long term, they say a conversation may need to be revisited that dates back to 2012.

“Possibly creating a flyover that connects to the Truman Parkway, this was something that came up for voters in 2012 and they did not pass the TSPLOST which could have funded that, so now we need to have that conversation again,” said Gavin.