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CSX has history of poor relations
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A lot of Camden residents and others who pass through Camden had a rough time of it last week when CSX Railroad closed not one, but two crossings in Dusty Bend to replace a 2,000-foot section of track.

A lot of people didn’t have a whole lot of nice things to say about CSX, and I can’t blame them. I’ve dealt with CSX in one capacity or another since before coming to work at the Chronicle-Independent. I once held an administrative assistant position at Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina. At one point, the Medicare division I worked in set up temporary offices on Two Notch Road near Clemson Road.

In order to get to our front entrance, we had to go over railroad tracks -- every day. Ours was considered a minor crossing. It had lights, but no guard arms. We constantly asked them to improve the crossing to make it safer for our employees. They refused. Instead, they sent representatives to school us in how to cross the tracks safely. It was actually a “Scared Straight” kind of session, showing us a clip of a female pedestrian being struck by a train


They weren’t exactly accommodating when it came to scheduling repairs and such during work hours, either Thankfully, Blue Cross soon moved us to Palmetto GBA’s huge building off I-77 and Farrow Road in Columbia.

Back then I had a less direct relationship with the company. Since beginning my career here at the C-I, I’ve had to contact them on occasion for a story here and there. I have not been real impressed with how they interact with local officials and the community.

That is certainly the case when it comes to crossings, as evidenced last week. CSX claimed it had to shut both crossings down simultaneously because they were replacing a 2,000-foot section of track that stretched from Broad to Lyttleton streets. I now wonder if that’s absolutely true. After all, if that was the case, how were they able to open Lyttleton Street before Broad Street? Was it really a single piece of track that was 2,000 feet long ... or a pieces of track that, together, added up to 2,000 feet?

I received complaints wondering how in the world CSX crews could stop work and allow trains to come through Camden. I even heard one story claiming that the work crew stopped for a lengthy bit of time as they waited for a train to go up to McBee -- and back -- before getting back to work.

If you’re replacing a section of track how does a train run?  If a train can run while you’re conducting such repairs, why can’t you have one or the other crossing open at different times while working on portions of the job?

Don’t think for a moment that Camden citizens are the only ones with complaints about CSX.

Sometime during the past few years, a Kentucky TV station had to intervene for the small town of Worthville (pop. 300) after CSX failed to honor an 11-year-old agreement to maintain the town’s lone crossing. Things got fixed, but only after the TV station stepped in., a company review website, had a number of complaints about CSX. Most of them were from current or former employees detailing terrible management experiences. One person claimed the corporate culture was one “cultivated by fear and frat house traditions.” Another said “management does not really care for you.” Yet another said management is “always looking to fire a person.” Positive reviews came from people listed in Jacksonville, Fla., where the company’s headquarters are located.

There’s even, a site devoted to mostly employee complaints of the company.

A number of message boards held complaints about how often, how long and how loud CSX freight trains blow their horns. While required for safety concerns, I’ve lived by tracks before -- that’s no fun at 3 a.m., trust me.

Just a month ago, more than 50 New Jersey residents filed suit after being exposed to vinyl chloride following a November train derailment near Philadelphia. The derailment caused four tank cars to plunge into a creek because CSX allegedly failed to maintain a bridge.

Last October, the Alexandria (Va.) City Council sent a letter to CSX on behalf of “multiple citizen complaints”  relating to a project replacing cross-ties and surface tracks between that city and Woodbridge, Va. The complaints were that there was no public outreach prior to the project, “resulting in the public being caught unaware of the activity or duration of the noise impact.”

When my father-in-law got remarried last fall, he did so in Massena, N.Y., up on the Canadian border. That’s where, according to the Watertown Daily News last July, a train blocked a crossing on State Route 420, “one of Massena’s busiest streets” for nearly half an hour tying up traffic to a point nearly half a mile away. CSX was scheduled to close Route 420 later last summer for repairs -- that might have rerouted traffic to another crossing six miles away.

In 2004, the Cincinnati Inquirer reported that Covington, Ohio, officials were “fed up” with CSX for failing to properly maintain a railroad bridge with “rush and cracked, peeling paint” the city considered a potential health hazard.

“The railroad thinks they can do whatever they want, that they don’t have to answer to any government,” Mayor Butch Callery was quoted.

I’ve said that myself on occasion. The fact is, they do own the railroad. The problem is that they act like it.

Now, that’s just not neighborly, is it?