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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Medina railroad upgrades planned; could horns go silent?

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Medina, Ohio, will upgrade several railroad crossing signals and surfaces within city limits in order to meet recently changed state and federal safety regulations. In addition, officials have discussed the possibility of transforming the area, which is in the city's southern portion, into a railroad quiet zone, the Medina Sun reports.

The upgrade project will be done in two separate parts with funding shared by five different entities - the Ohio Rail Development Commission, Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway and city of Medina.

On Feb. 8, Medina City Council approved, at its Finance Committee meeting, a memorandum of understanding with the railroad to construct new crossing surfaces at five locations - S. Elmwood Street, W. Smith Road, S. Huntington Street, S. Prospect Street and Medina Street. Medina will pay $204,461 for this portion of the project, splitting the total cost, an estimated $340,000, with WLE.

City Council has yet to approve the second portion of the project, though upgrades are imminent. In September 2009, the ORDC sent a letter to Medina informing city officials that several city railroad crossings did not meet standards of the Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Railroad crossings from Broadway Street to Medina Street needed improved technology that would allow railroad personnel to earlier activate Medina's railroad traffic signal system.

Under plans for the second portion, new gates and flashers would be installed at S. Court Street, W. Smith Road and Medina Street. The railroad circuitry at seven locations - S. Broadway, S. Court, S. Elmwood, W. Smith, S. Huntington, S. Prospect and Medina Street - would also be rewired to allow further advanced notice. In addition, city officials will activate the signal at W. Smith Road and S. Huntington Street and replace the signal at W. Smith and S. Elmwood.

For this portion of the project, ORDC, NOACA, and PUCO will share the costs with Medina, Medina Engineer Patrick Patton said. In all, Medina will pay approximately $568,887 - a 32.7-percent breakdown of the $1.74 million total cost for this portion. The project will be paid for from 108 funds, which can only be used for street and sewer improvements.

A second phase of this portion of the project also remains possible, which would invariably bring additional costs. But Patton emphasized that both projects would enhance the city's safety around railways.

"It does provide a safety advantage above what we have today," Patton said.

City Council also raised the idea at the Feb. 8 Finance Committee meeting of making Medina a railroad quiet zone, an area where locomotives cannot use their horns within city limits.

"What's the goal along this corridor?" at-large representative John Coyne asked. "Is it a move towards a quiet zone, or is it not?"

Council delayed the vote on the second portion of the project until that question could be answered.