by Jeff Neal
Science Hill —
A Norfolk Southern train was stopped across all three major crossings in Science Hill just before noon yesterday, halting traffic and triggering concerns about the community being cut off from emergency services.
“We get complaints about stopped trains about once a week ... maybe more often than that,” said Science Hill Police Chief Robbie Gossett. “Today there was a legitimate reason for the train to be stopped. But in some cases, we have no idea why the trains are stopped at our crossings. It happens quite often ... too often.”
Robin Chapman, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern, said a severed air hose caused the train to make an emergency stop in Science Hill yesterday.
“The trains have brakes that are connected by an air hose,” Chapman explained. “When something happens to that hose, the emergency brakes stop the train. The hose has to be repaired and the air pressure has to get back to normal before the train can be moved.”
Chapman said the train was stalled for 50 minutes yesterday. Gossett said it was closer to two hours.
“When we get word that a train is stopped, we call 911 Dispatch and let them know immediately,” Gossett said. “They have to make plans to get here a different way.”
Pulaski County Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson said when 911 is notified, EMS units are alerted to be looking for “additional routes” into Science Hill in case of an emergency.
Robinson said first responders would have to take old Clifty Road (Ky. 1676) or take a northern route across Ky. 70 near Eubank to get back down to Science Hill.
“If someone were having a heart attack, or if there was a major traffic accident, there is potential for a huge problem,” Gossett said. “It would cost first responders a lot of crucial minutes if they had to take a different route to get into Science Hill.
“When this happens, it really cuts us off,” Gossett added.
Several Science Hill residents voiced their concerns on the Commonwealth Journal Facebook page.
“The kids who actually live in town had to be brought back to school because of (the train),” said Michele Helsey. “It's a good thing there wasn't a medical emergency on the other side of the tracks. This is something that has been going on for some time.”
Kimberly Haste Dykes said her son has missed school they couldn’t get across the railroad crossing.
“This problems occurs a lot,” said Penny Acey. “We have stopped or slow-moving trains. We need a bridge somewhere there in Science Hill.”
“My children were stuck at school for well over an hour after release due to this train,” said Marsha E. LaPlante Cornell. “I would also like to add that a fire truck was waiting behind my husband to cross that track also. What if there was an emergency? Huge thank you to the staff at Science Hill School for taking care of the kids for that extra time and feeding the little ones lunch. A 15-minute trip for us took 1 hour and 50 minutes.”