Chattanooga will begin to automatically reroute emergency services and commuter traffic when a train is present at the Hamill Road railroad crossing in Hixson by leveraging the city’s world-class fiber network.
The initiative marks a new collaboration between the City of Chattanooga and Norfolk Southern Railway, and will use TDOT funds and smart city technology to provide relief to residents impacted by delays at the railroad crossing.
“It’s by working alongside our partners at TDOT and Norfolk Southern that we are able to deploy Chattanooga’s fiber optic infrastructure to provide relief to residents and first responders at this historically problematic railroad crossing,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “While the city continues to work with Norfolk Southern on strategic solutions to our shared infrastructure challenges, I’m proud of our teams for working on a fix that brings relief to motorists in the near term.”
The railroad crossing, located on Hamill Road between Northpoint Road and Crescent Club Drive, is located less than an eighth of a mile from a hospital emergency department and is used frequently by first responders, including ambulances.
“I am grateful at last for a solution that will help prevent ambulances, fire trucks and commuters from being stuck at this railroad crossing, which has long been a sore spot in our community for many years,” said District 3 City Councilman Ken Smith. “While we have a lot of work left to do to find a long-term solution, I’m grateful for the collaboration between local and state government and the railroad to begin solving this problem.”
A new interconnection between the City of Chattanooga’s traffic signal controller and the Norfolk Southern train detection equipment will automatically notify the local 911 dispatch center when the crossing is occupied by a train, prompting the diversion of emergency responders to an alternate route.
The new interconnection will also aid daily east/west commuters, who will receive notification via permanent dynamic signs indicating when a train is present to allow them to seek alternative routes.
“For years, every time I’ve gone door to door to speak with residents, the issue with blocked crossings has been a top issue for the Hixson Community,” said District 26 State Representative Robin Smith. “My thanks to Mayor Tim Kelly and the team at TDOT for pulling together to find a workable solution until a permanent fix is available. This is terrific news for commuters in Hixson.”
The initiative follows the completion of a 2019 TDOT report reviewing the railroad crossing — and potential strategies for mitigation. The city’s portion of work is slated to begin once a notice to proceed from TDOT is received, and once Norfolk Southern completes its portion of the interconnection.
This project is funded entirely by TDOT through the Section 130 Program. Section 130 is a federal aid program administered by the state focused on improving safety at existing railroad crossings. More information is available at tn.gov/tdot.