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Monday, January 25, 2010

Bridge projects get back on track

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Two bridge projects that were put on hold about two months ago are back on track, The Medina County, Ohio, Gazette reports. Bob Sullivan, spokesman for CSX Transportation, said the company is working to secure funding to proceed with work on the bridges over the tracks at Rivers Corners Road in Homer Township and at Pawnee Road on the border of Homer and Harrisville townships. The project includes rebuilding the bridge at Rivers Corners to allow for taller, double-stack trains to pass underneath, and demolishing the bridge at Pawnee and vacating the road with a detour at Simcox Road.

Sullivan said CSXT plans to work with local and county officials to "figure out the best way to deal with the bridges." The company must receive county approval before it proceeds with the project.

County Commissioner Steve Hambley said commissioners would have a public hearing in the next month.

Homer Township trustees discussed the issue in the fall. Trustee Bryan Rose said the community largely did not support closing Pawnee, which would involve a detour of about one mile.

Andy Conrad, the county's assistant highway engineer, said it would be difficult to make a bridge on Pawnee tall enough over the railroad because it is close to Greenwich Road.

"The geometry there is just really tough to get a crossing there and meet all the different design criteria for ODOT and the county," he said. "It would just be very difficult, if not impossible, to do."

After their public hearing, Homer Township trustees passed a resolution supporting the bridge project, citing it "will enhance safety for traveling public and first responders, while improving local infrastructure for area residents."

"I don't want to lose the bridge, but it's going to happen," Rose said. "It can't be replaced at today's standards."

Harrisville Township Trustee Dick Indoe said Thursday that the township has not taken any official action to support or oppose the project.

Hambley said in addition to the upcoming public hearing, commissioners would visit the proposed project sites and review suggestions from the highway engineer's office. He said commissioners eventually would have to take action on the matter.

"We'll have to take everything into consideration, and we'll have to look at everything's that being presented by the public," he said.

CSX is working on a third project in Medina County: replacing the 103-year-old bridge at Mud Lake Road in Westfield Township. The company secured state funding last year and is scheduled to begin work in the spring.

All the bridge projects are part of CSXT's $842-million "National Gateway" plan that seeks to create a more efficient rail route between mid-Atlantic ports and Midwest markets by 2015. About half of the plan involves the construction of four terminals, which would be funded by CSXT. The other portion, which will be paid for mainly with government grants, will make way for double-stacked containers on train cars through three rail corridors. The goal is to ease railway congestion by stacking containers.

Rusty Orben, director of public affairs in Ohio for CSX, said there are 61 locations throughout six states in the project area that would obstruct the double-stack cars. Sixteen of those are in Ohio, including the three Medina County bridges.