DADE CITY — A high-ranking official for railroad giant CSX made a public apology to the Dade City Commission on Tuesday for two train stoppages in recent weeks that snarled traffic in the city.
On July 11, a CSX crew stopped a train to make a federally mandated shift change. The stop blocked several intersections on the city's east side for six hours. On Aug. 19, it happened again for 90 minutes, which caused public safety officials to scramble to handle traffic and drivers cut off by the stoppage.
For days, the company was blasted by public officials with the city, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor.
On Tuesday, CSX's resident vice president in Florida, Bob O'Malley, faced the Dade City Commission and apologized.
"There's no excuse for it," he said.
O'Malley told the commission that awareness of the problem has been "elevated" to the highest levels of the company and every dispatcher that deals with Florida railroads has been ordered not to stop a train in the city. Instead, if a shift change is needed, it will be done north or south of Dade City.
For one member of the commission, it came down to a simple response:
"Is this going to happen again?" asked Commissioner Bill Dennis.
O'Malley said a shift change shouldn't occur again in the city, but he couldn't promise that a stoppage would never occur due to a mechanical problem or other emergency. He pledged that if something did cause a stoppage in the city, crews would separate train cars at intersections to allow traffic through. O'Malley also gave his cellphone number to the commission to stress that CSX officials will be available should another stoppage occur.
"We need to do a better job communicating," O'Malley said.