February 19, 2016

Schilling puts safety first, funds railroad crossing

By Jimmie Covington
– Commercial Appeal –

After a long court battle and several weeks of construction, a new railroad crossing has been completed at Schilling Farms south of Poplar in Collierville.

In addition to up-to-date design, safety signals and crossing arms, the project includes a new traffic signal at the intersection of Poplar, Bray Station Road and the new Schilling Boulevard West.

Bray Station is on the north side of the traffic light and Schilling Boulevard West runs to the south across the Norfolk Southern Railway tracks.

The project, including the traffic signal, was fully funded by the Schilling development at a cost of more than $1 million, officials said. The traffic signal is synchronized with other traffic signals along Poplar in Collierville.

In conjunction with Schilling Boulevard East, the new crossing and boulevard section result in a U-shaped entrance roadway into the Schilling development. Schilling Boulevard East connects with Poplar across from Poplar View Parkway.

Schilling Farms is a 443-acre mixed development on the south side of West Poplar. It includes offices, shops, residential areas and other facilities.

A March 2002 agreement in a long-running legal dispute with the railroad allowed construction to proceed on the new crossing plus a second new crossing that is proposed for the Porter Farms development on the south side of Poplar across from Shea Road.

The plans to build the two crossings have been in the courts since at least 1997. Some issues in the lawsuit remain to be resolved.

Norfolk Southern had allowed the crossing to be built for Schilling Boulevard East but challenged Collierville town government’s right to take railroad land for the other two crossings.

The 2002 agreement allowed the railroad to continue to seek damages up to $1 million in state court and continue a federal court lawsuit it had filed.

The railroad had argued in its state court lawsuit that the additional crossings would interfere with its operation and present a danger to the public and railroad employees.

Town, Schilling Farms and Collierville Chamber of Commerce officials held a ribbon-cutting at the new crossing last week.

Harry Smith, chairman of Schilling Enterprises, said, "It is going to make it so much better for people to be able to get into the property from two ways. It will open up all of this whole (west) side.

"If we had just had the one crossing, it would have been a lot harder to handle the traffic and everything at peak times."

Rusty Bloodworth, Boyle Investment Co. executive vice president, said the new crossing and second entrance are important for the growth of both Collierville and Schilling Farms, which is a Boyle development.

"It creates a wonderful piece of property here (the land within the U) that we are really kind of holding for the long-term development of Collierville," Bloodworth said. "A lot of wonderful things can happen here inside that U."

Mayor Linda Kerley said the new crossing, entrance and traffic signal are "very good for Collierville." She said the new signal will aid the traffic flow along Poplar through Collierville.

Also she said the safety controls at the crossing are designed to make it as safe as possible.

Wright Cox, Chamber of Commerce board member, and Gary Thompson, Boyle vice president, also participated in the ribbon-cutting.