A CSX freight train was parked motionless in downtown Cartersville for more than two hours Wednesday, from 12:10 to 2:30 p.m., blocking every crossing and wreaking havoc on traffic. The gridlock increased as frustrated drivers tried to reach the Church Street Bridge only to cause even more problems.
CSX spokesperson Laura Phelps said she couldn’t provide any information about the cause of the blockage.
“First, I want to apologize on behalf of CSX Railroad for this unfortunate incident,” she said from her Jacksonville office. “The cause is under investigation and steps will be taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Apologies weren’t enough to placate Mayor Matt Santini and the Cartersville City Council.
At Thursday’s meeting, the council voted to fine CSX $3,000, the maximum allowed by a city ordinance.
“I know this is a drop in the bucket for CSX,” Santini said. “But at least we are sending a message that we won’t tolerate incidents like what happened this afternoon.”
Section 19-3 of the city ordinances says it “shall be unlawful to obstruct any street crossings within the corporate limits with any freight cars or a train for a longer time than 10 minutes unless a longer time is necessary for the train to enable it to perform its duties as a common carrier.”
Assistant City Attorney Keith Lovell said the maximum fine the city could impose was $1,000 per incident per violation. Because three streets were blocked, that would be counted as three incidents or $3,000.
“This could have led to a real public safety crisis,” Santini said. “If fire, police or ambulance has to get somewhere, it makes it impossible for our public safety crews to be able to help our citizens.”