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Shoddy Railroad Crossings a Danger to Disabled

An elderly disabled man says his motorized wheelchair is useless when trying to cross the railroad tracks near the University of Memphis, forcing him to dangerous traffic.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - An elderly disabled man says his motorized wheelchair is useless when trying to cross the railroad tracks near the University of Memphis, forcing him to dangerous traffic.

For six months he's complained and for six months nothing has happened. He admits fighting city hall is hard, but this has been impossible.

Shelton Reece started making phone calls last February to Memphis city officials and to folks with Norfolk Southern Railroad. There have been a few small improvements, but not enough. Reece says maybe the improvements will be made, but only after someone gets killed.

Reece has emphysema. He has tubes running from his nose to oxygen tanks in his motorized chair. He can walk a few steps and that's it. So his chair is his lifeline; it's his mobility.

That's why the small stretch of sidewalk at Southern Avenue and Highland Street is so important to him. All he wants is for his chair to make it over the tracks safely. He's been trying to get help since February.

The city just put in ramps for wheelchairs. But once he gets off city property and on to the railroad right of way, the trip becomes almost impossible. Uneven asphalt with ruts, grooves and rail tracks sticking up force Reece to roll his chair out into traffic.

The problems might seem small to you, if you can walk. If you're confined to a chair the rails might as well be a brick wall.

We decided to check the other side of the street. It was worse. Ruts were so deep there were times the power chair's wheels just spun in mid-air.

Shelton Reece is speaking for about 30 other residents of Highland Towers who fight this problem when heading to the Family Dollar store on Highland.

He says he's called the railroad, who says they're working on the problem, and he's called the city of Memphis. City officials told Reece they couldn't do much, which is what they told us.

According to the city's Chief Administrative Officer George Little, "Any time their property is crossed or involved you've got to work with the railroads."

Little did say Reece should talk with the city engineer's office, again, just like he's been doing since last February.

"We'll follow up," Little said, "and we'll encourage the railroad to do the right thing."

Shelton Reece isn't too optimistic.

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