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Tampa, CSX share blame on traffic mess | Editorial
It turns out they were talking to each other in advance -- but not the public.
Workers at West Platt Street and South Dakota Avenue working on a railroad crossing on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, in Tampa.
Workers at West Platt Street and South Dakota Avenue working on a railroad crossing on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Feb. 28, 2020

The city of Tampa and rail carrier CSX should quit blaming each other for the traffic tie-ups this week that brought a good portion of the city to a standstill. Both are to blame. They are lucky a disaster didn’t happen, and they need to do better next time.

Motorists languished in traffic Wednesday as roads throughout South Tampa were closed while CSX performed maintenance work on railroad crossings. The city initially blamed CSX for poor communication and not following procedures, but emails revealed Thursday showed the two sides had been in contact for weeks. Meanwhile, the public was left in the dark.

This was bad planning and potentially dangerous. Did CSX not think of the cumulative impact of closing a dozen roads in the densest part of the city? Why not work on nights and weekends, as the Florida Department of Transportation routinely does to lessen the impacts from road work? This was a nightmare scenario for anyone who might have needed a police officer, firefighter or paramedic in an emergency. The road blocks created challenges for getting everywhere, from schools to Tampa General Hospital. The issue here goes far beyond the inconvenience.

The city and CSX issued apologies Thursday, but that’s not enough. Both need to explain publicly the steps they are taking to prevent a repeat performance. Traffic is already terrible this time of year. Residents shouldn’t be blindsided by thoughtless decisions that create a preventable risk to public safety.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news