JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The City of Jackson is taking on the Canadian National Railway company over the closing of the underpass on Walter Dutch Welch Dr. in 2016.
A sealed-up underpass below a railway deemed vital to locals has pushed the City of Jackson to take its company to court.
Every year Canadian National Railway moves over 300 million tons of cargo through 11 states. But along their route in Jackson, cutting off a city road has people furious.
“The railroad company had claimed it was a cow trail back in the day and that it was not even a city street,” Councilman De’Keither Stamps said in an opening statement. “But we had been paving the city streets, we even rename the street and there was a streetlight.”
For homeowners off Livingston Rd. and Parkway Ave. the underpass on Walter Dutch Welch Dr. was the quickest way for first responders to get to people who needed help. With it cutoff, they say the time difference has been deadly.
“I had an elderly neighbor who had a health condition who suffered a stroke the very day they blocked this off,” Belair Neighborhood Association Vice President Brian Grizzell said. “Her son could not get to her; the paramedics could not get to her and she passed away.”
The big dispute is who owns the land directly below the train tracks and who’s responsible to pay or close it for improvements? Bottom line, Jackson wants it reopened.
“The rail company is aware that any city operates through its city council and its mayor,” Jackson mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. “So not having either the council or mayor speak to this issue was an unsanctioned action.”
Three schools’ surround the closure Morrison Academic and Smith Elementary, plus Powell Middle School. Since the underpass was sealed students and staff must go as far as I-220 to get around.
At his news conference mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba also emphasized the City of Jackson wants Canadian National to stop halting trains at Northside Dr. and Livingston St. by Ridgeway intersections holding back traffic.
“The only entity that can close a city street is the city council, and the railroad company is claiming that it was a cow trail back in the days and it wasn’t even a city street. But we have been repaving the streets, and we even renamed the street. There was a street light at the end of the street. So, I think it’s just preposterous for anyone to think it’s not a city street,” said Councilman De’Keither Stamps.