Columbia mayor says it's 'a damn shame!' when residents tweet about stalled Assembly St. train

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Chris Blasch's afternoon walk to class was suddenly stopped on Wednesday afternoon when a long train crossed Assembly Street.

"As far as traffic goes, it absolutely destroys any attempt for trying to get somewhere," he said while waiting.

To Blasch, the 20-minute delay is forgettable and common. But what happened Wednesday morning was not. Around 8:30, a long train stopped for a long time. It blocked vehicle and foot traffic in Rosewood, on Assembly Street, and in Olympia.

"Let's just say you had to add about 35 or 40 minutes to your travel plans if you wanted to go anywhere," Blasch said.

It took even longer for Rebecca Haynes to get to work in Olympia.

"They were already stopped when I came upon it. I was probably waiting for a solid 45 minutes to an hour," she said. "That was after I tried – silly me – to go around a couple of different ways."

Haynes took to Twitter, and minutes later, Mayor Steve Benjamin did too.

"Yes," Benjamin responded to the complaints. "This is a damn shame!"

Wednesday afternoon, Benjamin addressed the issue in a phone interview with WIS.

"I usually try to be more restrained on Twitter," the mayor said. "To have trains on the tracks at those key intersections for nearly an hour just paralyzes things. It's a perfect storm."

Benjamin said the city will try to hash out the issue in an upcoming meeting. But, he said it's a problem that the city can't solve alone.

Mayor Benjamin explained that the city has requested state funding before (Assembly St. is state-maintained), but the request was denied. Benjamin expects he'll submit that request again soon, and he estimates that it'll cost about $40 million to fix the issue involving trains alone.

"It is going to require – I really want to underscore this fact – it's going to require some state participation," Benjamin said.

Haynes hopes that'll happen.

"It's going to take time to solve an issue this big, but hopefully, you know, we can start setting out some goals and objectives and get a plan in the works," she said.

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