COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) has announced a number of grants via the Ohio Grade Crossing Elimination Program.
ORDC approved funding to the Butler County Engineer’s Office on January 18, 2024. The funds will go toward constructing an access road for the Cedar Grove residential subdivision in the township. It will also close at least one at-grade railroad crossing, with the potential to close an additional crossing. The project is estimated to cost $3.1 million with the Rail Commission contributing 90% or $2.7 million from the Ohio Grade Crossing Elimination Program. The remaining 10% will be provided from Butler County. In addition, Norfolk Southern will contribute toward the project as it is the operating railroad.
Executive Director of the ORDC said: “The creation of better access in this area will greatly enhance the safety of its residents. We are happy to partner with the Butler County Engineer to resolve this longstanding issue.”
Additionally, Greg Wilkens, P.E., P.S., Butler County Engineer expressed gratitude toward the ORDC for “their generous grant to help fund the Cedar Grove Connector project. This project will ensure the safety and convenience of the Cedar Grove subdivision residents and provide crucial access for first responders in the event of a stopped train. Without the ORDC, this much-needed project would not have been possible.”
CINCINNATI EASTERN RAILROAD
The ORDC approved a $330,000 grant to Cincinnati Eastern Railroad (CCET) for a rehabilitation project along the railroad’s Cincinnati District Line. Located in Adams and Browns Counties, the grant will “allow the railroad to purchase and install 3,000 rail ties, add 2,000 tons of ballast, install 202 kegs of spikes and complete surface reconstruction projects between MPs 47 and 74.” The repairs are “necessary” because of the growth in stone traffic. This will improve safety. According to the report, three at-grade highway rail crossings will be permanently closed in the Village of Sardinia.
Dietrich said: “This project is an excellent example of how investments in shortline railroads in the state have positive economic impacts on the region. By improving the rail infrastructure, the Rail Commission is not only leveraging railroad investment but also improving the critical infrastructure needed to provide rail service to their customers. In addition, anytime we are able to close a crossing to vehicular/pedestrian traffic and thereby increase safety for a community, it’s a win for all involved.”
Chris Whitely, President and CEO of Cincinnati Eastern Railroad said: “The CCET would not exist if not for the support of the Rail Commission. The partnership between the railroad and the state has allowed the CCEET to consistently grow our customer base over the years. We look forward to continued support from the Rail Commission; making safe and efficient rail service possible for our customers.”
CITY OF ASHLAND
The ORDC approved funding via the Ohio Grade Crossing Elimination Program for the City of Ashland’s track relocation project. Ashland “plans to remove an existing at-grade crossing located at Union Street (DOT# 265034C) and reconfigure the rail sidings.” The report states that the rail sidings will be relocated away from the crossing, and the at-grade crossing at Union Street will be permanently closed. The property will then be redeveloped for non-rail use. The Rail Commission will contribute 90%, or $804,735, toward the cost of the project. The City of Ashland is reported to contribute the remaining 10%, totaling $89,415.
Matthew Dietrich said: “The Ohio Grade Crossing Elimination Program is an excellent resource for communities who are open to the permanent closure of at least one at-grade crossing in their community. While this program assists in readying applicants to apply for federal grant programs for large grade separation projects, the state’s program can also be utilized for other activities such as the Ashland project which is smaller in scope but closes railroad crossings and improves safety. We are happy to support the City in this endeavor.”
Mayor Matt Miller said: “We are so thankful that the Rail Commission is willing to partner with us on such a critical revitalization project. . . By helping us eliminate an underutilized spur and at-grade crossing in the PumpHouse District, they are setting the stage for a multi-million dollar investment in both new housing and commercial development in our downtown business district. This grant will help us overcome one of the biggest obstacles to this new development.”
MAUMEE RIVER BRIDGE
The ORDC approved a $250,000 grant to Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway (W&LE) to go toward repairs to the Maumee River Bridge. A swing bridge “with a span that rotates on a central axis to allow river vessel traffic to pass through,” the bridge closes to allow W&LE traffic to pass over. The traffic is interchanged with the Ann Arbor Railroad and CN in Toledo. According to the report, “more than 10,000 carloads traverse the bridge each year.” The project will replace the end lift mechanism that allows the swing span to lift off the fixed spans and start rotating. Currently, the end lift mechanism dates back to the 1940s.
Dietrich said of the Maumee River Bridge that it is a “critical component to the sustained flow of both rail and waterway traffic. Due to unique circumstance involved with this project, the railroad needs assistance to repair the bridge in a manner that will ensure the long-term viability of the structure as well as prevent interruption in service to both maritime and rail customers in the area.”
Nick Strub, P.E., Project Engineer for Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway said: “The Wheeling & Lake Erie is extremely grateful for the continued assistance of the Rail Commission in our ongoing efforts to improve aging rail infrastructure and continue to serve the many rail-reliant industries throughout Ohio. This latest funding approval continues to show the commitment of the Rail Commission in keeping Ohio’s rail infrastructure operating safely for many years to come. We are thankful to be a part of it and thankful for the support.”
CITY OF HUDSON
The City of Hudson will receive funding from the Ohio Grade Crossing Elimination Program for a proposed grade separation project at Hines Hill Road. Along with funds in the most recent state budget, the Rail Commission will contribute $2,886,174, or 20% to match the community’s funding to “ensure the application to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) Program, expected to be due in March, is competitive.” According to the report, Norfolk Southern supports this project and will also commit funding toward the project.
The project, totaled at $14 million, will construct a grade separation at Hines Hill Road and will also close another crossing “that experiences a very high volume of train traffic.” The Hines Hill Road corridor is often blocked with train traffic, which have caused traffic interruptions and concerns regarding the potential for emergency service delays.
Senator Kristina Roegner said: ““Securing funding from the Ohio Rail Commission for the Hines Hill grade separation is a major step forward in bringing this project to fruition. Hudson City Manager Thom Sheridan and his team put together an incredibly compelling case which he presented in Columbus as to why this infrastructure project should be a priority for our state. I am delighted that the Ohio Rail Commission agreed and voted unanimously in support.”
Hudson Mayor Jeffrey Anzevino maintained the importance of the Hines Hill grade separation project as an “important endeavor that will benefit not only the City of Hudson but also surrounding communities. Uninterrupted vehicle access in this corridor for residents, school buses and especially emergency services is paramount for the safety and well-being of all.”