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Railroad crossings to close following DOTD, City Council dispute

Railroad crossings to close
Posted at 6:50 PM, May 09, 2023

NEW IBERIA, La. — If you drive through New Iberia, your route may soon be changing as the Department of Transportation and Development prepares to close down two railroad crossings. They are located on Caroline and Providence Streets.

This comes after a decade-long dispute between various city officials and DOTD. According to the department, the closures come by way of the Rail Safety Reconsideration Board to comply with current regulations and safety specs following a 2011 traffic study. State officials say these regulations mandate a maximum of five main railway crossings for every three miles of track.

In New Iberia, records show there are 21 across just five miles. But these closures are nothing new — after the study, two other railroad crossings nearby were closed: at Evangeline and Prairie Streets.

KATC spoke with the city's Mayor Pro Tem, Ricky Gonsoulin. While he says this issue started before his time in office, he tells KATC the city tried to negotiate with the state, however, it was unsuccessful. According to Gonsoulin, the city suggested pulling the railroad crossing guard from nearby Deare Street, one block away from Caroline.

"DOTD said that's not in company principle, they go brand new, they don't refurbish and move them down, but it would cost us $450,000," Gonsoulin says. "Knowing we couldn't afford it, we offered $100,000. I didn't support that because I just think why offer more money when the study and things were originally done at the cost of the federal government and state government to do what was proposed to do."

Area residents tell KATC this comes as no surprise to them, saying this conversation has been had many times over the years. Some voice their frustration over taking a new route, while others are hoping this will allow fewer cars to speed through the surrounding neighborhoods.

DOTD spokeswoman Deidra Druilhet says the decision-making process is past the point of no return, and these railroad crossings will be shut down. There is no word yet as to when these closures will go into effect, but Druilhet tells KATC alternate routes will exist and be less than a block from the current crossings people are used to.

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