Thursday, November 19, 2009

CSXT bridge project in Ohio to go ahead

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CSX Transportation has put on hold two bridge projects in Medina County, Ohio, while details are worked out between the railroad company and county officials, according to the Medina County Gazette. A third project - replacing the 103-year-old bridge at Mud Lake Road in Westfield Township - is scheduled to begin early next year. The rebuilt bridge will allow double-stacked containers on rail cars to pass under it.

CSXT's National Gateway is an $842-million project that seeks to create a more efficient rail route between mid-Atlantic ports with Midwest markets by 2015. About half of the project involves the construction of four terminals, which would be funded by CSXT. 
The other portion of the project, 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 CSXT, 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 and three are in Medina County: the bridges at Mud Lake Road, River Corners Road in Homer Township and Pawnee Road on the border of Homer and Harrisville townships.

CSXT has a deadline of Dec. 1 to submit the bridge projects to the Ohio Department of Transportation. Orben said the company postponed the Pawnee and River Corners projects because they likely would not have received full support from the communities and county commissioners in time.

The projects would have involved rebuilding the bridge at River Corners and demolishing the Pawnee Road bridge over the tracks and vacating the road with a detour at Simcox Road. He said the townships had concerns about the plans.

"We wanted to make sure everybody was comfortable. It felt like we were forcing a decision at this time, so we're going to take a step back," he said.

He said CSXT hopes grants will become available to advance the projects next year.

In the meantime, commissioners are drafting a letter to support the Mud Lake Road bridge project. However, Commissioner Steve Hambley said they would not address the issue of ownership of the bridge in the letter.

CSXT has requested the county own the new bridge after it's built, but the county is wary of the responsibility. If it accepts ownership, it would have to maintain the bridge and replace it in the future.

"There appears to be very little reason for us to assume that liability long term," Hambley said.

County Highway Engineer Mike Salay said taking care of and eventually replacing the bridge could become expensive. He said the county took ownership of a bridge at Friendsville Road in Westfield Township more than 20 years ago.

"The day is going to come when that bridge is going to need replaced and that will be the most expensive bridge Medina County has taken on," he said.

Orben said the ownership issue has taken a back seat to moving the project forward.

"Obviously our preference is to turn over ownership of the new structures to the local authorities," he said. "We still want to do that for Mud Lake. At this time to move the project forward we're going to retain ownership, but we'd like to continue that discussion later."

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