Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Drivers were stuck for hours on Wednesday morning, waiting for a train that was sitting idle in the middle of Assembly St.
"I think it was almost an hour delay of a stopped train," says Rebecca Haynes, who left downtown on Lady Street at about 8:20am. "I think around 9:30 I just gave up and went back downtown."
Haynes, along with several other viewers, reached out to News 19, concerned about what was causing the train to sit for so long.
"Traffic was backed up from the train crossing between Whaley and Rosewood," saysd Haynes. "I took a left to do the S. Main to Whaley thing and I come across Whaley and the same train is still backed up."
For Alli Osborne, she struggled to get to USC's campus for about two hours.
"I was stuck there, there was no way for me to turn around due to all the cars around me," says Osborne, a senior at USC. "I completely missed my 8am class. I didn't get on campus until 9:40am, when I had planned to be here at more like 7:50."
A City of Columbia ordinance saying:
It shall be unlawful for the directing officer or the operator of any railroad train to direct the operation of or to operate the train in such a manner as to prevent the use of any street for purposes of travel for a period of time longer than five minutes, except that this provision shall not apply to trains or cars in motion other than those engaged in switching. It shall be unlawful for any railroad train to stop within an intersection or on a crosswalk for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin says there have been efforts by the city to change where the tracks are located.
"We proposed to the State Infrastructure Bank, just three years ago, a full proposal that envisioned Assembly St. all the way from Elmwood to Rosewood, which included a fly-over bridge for the railroad tracks," says Mayor Benjamin. "The infrastructure bank declined our application. It's probably over a $40 million fix. It's something that we thought was important then, but is still important now."
Drivers have been stopped by the trains before, but say it's never taken that long to make it across the tracks.
"This was probably the most egregious of the occurrences," says Haynes.
CSX, whose train was stopped on the tracks, released a statement saying:
In Columbia, CSX and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks cross each other, and congestion at this junction caused trains to stop on both railroads this morning. We apologize for the inconvenience this caused morning commuters, and we are already working to improve communication and prevent that from happening again.
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