Among the hundreds of bills under consideration for the Florida Legislature, there’s one in particular that has the support of the Northeast Florida Regional Council and Town of Baldwin: Increasing fines for rail companies that come to a complete stop blocking traffic.
Charlie Stone lives right next to the train tracks in Baldwin off U.S Highway 90.
He's forced to cover his ears every few minutes during rush hour to deflect the noise from the trains passing and stopping by at times.
Stones has even seen friends turn around and go home because the traffic was too backed up.
“They say, 'well we can see the roof of your house, but we’re not going to be able to make it there today, I’m headed back home,' and they never show up," Stone said.
During the week, stone spends several days in his backyard where he can see the traffic building up.
“Seen the train stop for 30 minutes, backup for a couple hundred yards, stop for another five minutes.”
At times Charles said traffic can be stopped for two hours at a time.
Around 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon our camera caught a train come to a complete stop. About five minutes passed with traffic building up, then the train slightly moved forward, only to stop again, seemingly out of the way but still with the arms down. Drivers, obviously frustrated, honked their horns and threw their hands in the air.
“Business has gone down, we’ve lost two businesses, our grocery store has gone away because people are more or less, say stay out of Baldwin you can’t get in or you can’t get out," said Mayor Sean Lynch.
Lynch helped draft legislation now under committee review in Florida’s Legislature. If a train comes to a complete stop in traffic for more than 15 minutes, fines would increase every 15 minutes a train blocks a road, street or public highway. Longer than an hour would be roughly $1,200 in fines and $1,000 for every 15 minutes after.
“If we had a fire just 100 feet over the other side it will burn down before the firefighters can get there," Lynch said. "It’s a safe life issue and frankly the people in Baldwin don’t deserve it," Lynch said.
Lynch argues the problem is that the nearby yard isn’t big enough for a 15,000-foot train, causing crews to have to add on containers which back up in the roadway.
CSX told First Coast News:
"There are times when a crossing may unavoidably be blocked by trains heading in or out of the rail yard in Baldwin. We work to limit the impact of our operations to the extent possible.”
Charlie and others support the idea of increasing fines.
“There’s probably not enough money you can fine them to where they’re actually going to notice, but maybe the more taken away from them, the faster the trains will get out of here and be gone," Stone said.
“This town was built around the railway, it’s not that we don’t want CSX, we just want them to be a good neighbor,” Lynch said.