MUSCLE SHOALS — They won't keep the trains from stopping on the tracks, but new directional signs in Muscle Shoals, Sheffield and Tuscumbia can provide drivers with alternate routes around blocked crossings in the three cities.

Tuscumbia Mayor Kerry Underwood, Muscle Shoals Mayor David Bradford and Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford unveiled the new signs Thursday prior to a meeting of the Northwest Alabama Alabama Council of Local Governments Board of Directors

"What I like is the three cities are working together," Underwood said.

The three cities, especially Sheffield, have had railroad crossings blocked by Norfolk Southern trains that stop on passing tracks sometimes for hours, blocking vehicle traffic and frustrating motorists. The trains are parked to allow trains moving in a different direction to pass by.

The 23 signs will be placed at locations near railroad crossings in the three cities and direct drivers to routes that will take them to unblocked crossings or out of town. Each city will erect the signs in their city.

Underwood said the four signs cost them about $400 to have fabricated.

The signs are reflective blue with a railroad crossing symbol, followed by the words "alternate route." The signs direct people through the cities along existing routes.

"It's a road you may or may not use," Underwood said. "A lot of people know them, but they forget."

In the worst case scenario, the mayor said it might take people 3 to 4 miles out of their way.

Sanford said the signs might be more beneficial to someone who is not familiar with the three cities.

"I think it will refresh the memories of some people and help new people who are unfamiliar with the area," Sanford said.

They will be helpful to someone who is simply trying to get out of town to access major routes like U.S. 43 and U.S. 72.

"It's just marking what we already have in place," Bradford said. 

Bradford said a study indicated the average time the Avalon Avenue crossing in Muscle Shoals is blocked is five minutes and the longest has been 30 minutes to one hour.

Crossings in Sheffield at South Atlanta Avenue, Montgomery Avenue, Southwest 12th Street and East Douglas Street have at times been blocked for hours.

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