MEMPHIS, Tenn. — People living in the historic French Fort neighborhood of Memphis are used to having to stick up for themselves. If they didn’t, their neighborhood may no longer exist. French Fort has only a few hundred houses nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River, located in a hidden pocket next to the Metal Museum, Interstate 55 and north of President’s Island.
But due to state construction on I-55, they’ve lost their primary neighborhood access. Instead, they have to use the southern entrance, which they’ve avoided for years due to railroad crossings in bad condition.
The railroad tracks on Riverside Boulevard near Jack Carley Causeway are in such bad shape that you have to come to an almost complete stop to get over them.
“You have to be very slow. You have to be very careful. It’s wear and tear on your car because this is our primary way getting in and out of the community,” said Fred Jones, founder of the Southern Heritage Classic and a French Fort homeowner. “I think it’s horrible. If you live over here, we shouldn’t have to do this.”
He tried to get action for months by working with Memphis officials. But the city can’t do anything on railroad property.
He shared an email from a Memphis official where they tell neighbors they’ll continue to “communicate this to the railroad” to try to get them to make improvements.
“Only thing we’re asking the railroad to do is repair the tracks,” Jones said.
They thought the railroad was ignoring the city’s requests, so Jones called the WREG Problem Solvers.
The intersection contains two tracks, one owned by Canadian National Railway and the other owned by BNSF. Only one has the ongoing issue. We found out the city had been contacting the wrong railroad in trying to fix the issue. City officials had been contacting Canadian National Railway.
When we contacted the other railroad, BNSF, they responded the next day and said “work is now scheduled to take place next week.”
“They were all talking about “the railroad.” Unfortunately we were talking to the wrong one,” Jones said.
Jones captured video showing the beginning of the asphalt resurfacing work.
It took another three months for the correct railroad, BNSF, to finish.
“It’s better. It was brutal,” Jones said.
He was disappointed in how the saga unfolded.
“It’s kind of sad,” he said. “It was only until News Channel 3 got involved in asking some questions that we started getting some movement.”