Tangipahoa won’t appeal railroad crossings ruling

Tangipahoa Parish Council members agreed Monday not to appeal a judge’s ruling that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development had the authority to close three railroad crossings in the parish.

On Wednesday, state District Judge Robert Morrison found that DOTD had followed proper procedures in closing two of the crossings in the Independence area, one at Capace Road and the other at Rev. J. White Road, and refused to order the state to reopen the crossings.

The closure of a third crossing, at Babb Road in the village of Tangipahoa, was not included in the council’s suit.

DOTD crews closed the crossings in the early morning hours of June 22, catching parish officials off guard. Within days, DOTD tore out the roads leading to the crossings.

At Monday’s council meeting, Cliff Speed, the council’s attorney, said of the court’s decision, “Obviously it didn’t go the way we planned. The judge ruled against us and it’s now up to you to decide if you want to appeal … but I don’t think we would have much success in making that move.”

Councilman Carlo Bruno said he was especially disappointed that the court upheld DOTD’s contention that it had held two public hearings before closing the crossings. Bruno called the first public meeting “a joke” and reminded the council that at that meeting DOTD announced that none of dozens of residents on hand to protest the closings would be allowed to speak.

A second meeting was called by Councilman Louis Joseph and Bruno, but it did not constitute a DOTD mandated public meeting, Bruno said.

In other business Monday, the council, responding to a plea from Cinzia Trobaugh, a resident of Riverside Lane near Tickfaw, voted unanimously to adopt a resolution calling on the two water franchise holders to extend water lines in the area between La. 442 and La. 443.

The water franchise holders are French Settlement Water Co. and Tangipahoa Water District.

Speed advised Trobaugh that the council cannot force the franchise holders to extend water lines. The council can only hold the two entities to its responsibility to provide clean water to its customers, he said.

Councilman Nicky Muscarello, who represents the area, said he has been working for months to bring treated water to area residents. Muscarello said he was told by a French Settlement Water Co. officer that the company was “broke” and does not have funds to extend existing water lines.