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Thursday, February 18, 2010

City wants to pursue higher priced railroad repairs

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Britt, Iowa, city officials are considering a costlier option in an effort to avoid future repairs to several damaged railroad crossings within the city, the Britt Summit reports. At its regular February meeting, the Britt City Council instructed Mayor David Mitchell to continue exploring a reconstruction option for three separate crossings throughout the city, an option that could cost the city an additional $10-12,000 per crossing but ensure a longer life span for each track.


"If we have to (make these repairs) again in 10 years, we will be saving ourselves the trouble now," Mitchell said. "I'm in favor of doing the right thing once."

The city received word in October that the Canadian Pacific Railway, as well as its Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad subsidiary, had figured repairs for Britt's deteriorated railroad crossings into the company's 2010 budget. DM&E plans to install 14 miles of continuously welded rail in the area, which includes crossings on three separate roads in Britt. Repairs are tentatively scheduled to begin in August.

T.J. Nelson, public affairs manager for DM&E, said this project would be an extension of a project the company recently completed.

"Last year, we installed 20 miles west of town," he said. "This project will begin east of Garner and continue into Kossuth County."

Before construction can begin, the city, in conjunction with DM&E, must decide between two options for the city's tracks. Nelson said the railroad typically replaces damaged railroad crossings and approaches with wood planks. The railroad covers the cost of the planks, leaving the city responsible for the cost of the approaches. This costs anywhere from $1-3,000, Nelson said. Life expectancy for the wooden planks averages 10 years.

"Life expectancy depends on how much traffic moves over the tracks," Nelson said.

Another option, one Britt city officials are exploring, uses a concrete surface in lieu of wooden planks. Nelson said the life expectancy for the concrete doubles that of the planks. Concrete is an option easier to maintain, Nelson added.

"Winter is tough on a crossing, just like a street," he said. "Even though the planks are sturdy, ice can build up, but not as much with concrete."

The concrete option comes with a larger price tag. Although the railroad would pay the same amount it would in the event the city chose the plank option, the city would be responsible for covering the difference as well as the cost of the approaches. The difference between planks and concrete is $10-12,000 per crossing, Nelson said.

Before the project can move forward, the city must decide which option is best. Due to the fact two of the three crossings also fall in the jurisdiction of Hancock County, the city must also work with the county in determining which entity is responsible for which portion of the project cost.

Britt City Clerk Jeanie Purvis said all entities are in contact with each other and the project is going to happen.

"We know for a fact this will be done," Purvis said. "The railroad is willing to do their share and we are willing to do ours. Knowing that it's coming, we will be bringing the county into the loop."

A total project cost estimate will not be available until a repair option is chosen and cost responsibility is determined.

Once DM&E knows how to proceed with the repairs, the project will begin in August. Although the repairs are scheduled to take place the weekend of the National Hobo Convention, Nelson said DM&E would make every effort to ensure tracks are open that weekend.

Although Nelson said the entire project could take three weeks to complete, Britt's portion is scheduled to take four days.

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