By: Arnold Wyrick
On average 40-plus Union Pacific trains and another 15-plus Southern Pacific trains roll through downtown Mt. Vernon every day. And when the two trains meet in town all traffic comes to halt. "If something bad would happen, it would just be too bad," says Arlene Austin of Mount Vernon. "Because there's no way an emergency crew could get out especially of the morning or afternoons when the work traffic is coming out, because they always get caught by a train."
The residents aren't the only ones frustrated by the situation at the railroad tracks. Jefferson's Fire Protection District Chief Conan King, had to call for help this past Friday morning when his crew was called upon to respond to a rollover accident east of town. "It's pretty frustrating sometimes the train will be there for 20-minutes. Or sometimes we'll be catching the end of a train. But whether it's an EMS call or a fire call seconds and minutes count in response times," Chief King said.
Former State Senator Bill O'Daniel tells Heartland News that he's been trying for years to get an overpass built over the tracks. "We've already spent a million dollars on a feasibility study. And I had former Governor George Ryan committed to spending the money to build it. But, back then then the people of Mt. Vernon didn't want to support it. Now we've got their support," O'Daniel said. "It's something that really is needed because all of our medical facilities are on the Westside of the tracks. I think it's a disaster waiting to happen."