The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

April 18, 2014

ODOT listens to North Kingsville detour concerns

NORTH KINGSVILLE — While the odds are "near impossible," state highway officials will check to see if a long-closed railroad crossing can serve as a detour when a Route 20 bridge is constructed next year.

Although not optimistic, representatives of the Ohio Department of Transportation said they would approach the Norfolk Southern Railway about reviving a crossing on Industry Road, adjacent to the bridge, that closed many years ago. ODOT officials spoke at an informational meeting held Thursday afternoon at the North Kingsville village hall that attracted local, county and state officials.

Village leaders and residents are upset with the projected 300 days the four-lane highway will be closed to through traffic while the bridge is replaced. People are worried about the impact on response time of police, fire and ambulance crews, as was as to local businesses.

ODOT plans to sell the contract in November and expect work to begin early in 2015. The bridge now in place was built in 1940 and is in very bad shape, said Justin Chesnic, from ODOT District 4's public information office. The bridge is "beyond its useful lifespan" of 50 to 60 years, he said.

"It's a safety hazard," Chesnic said. "It's ready to be replaced."

ODOT plans to shorten the bridge from 681 feet to 340 feet and also raise the height by a foot or two to 23 feet. "The trains cut it close," Chesnic said.

The bridge, which lifts vehicles over Norfolk Southern tracks, will resemble the bridge on Parrish Road in Conneaut when complete, officials said.

The state's detour for the project involves Route 193 to Interstate 90 to Route 7, but officials know residents will find shorter alternatives using side streets. North Kingsville officials are worried local roads will take a pounding from the increase in traffic, and the village doesn't have the money to stay on top of repairs.

"Our roads are marginal at best," said Councilman Mark Kauppila. "Our roads will turn back into dirt. When a culvert goes out, we will end up with the bill. We're tapped out, boys. This will put us in a world of hurt."

Mayor Terry McConnell also said he expects trucks to try to slip around the work site on roads not built to handle big rigs. While police will be vigilant, they can't be everywhere at once, he said.

While ODOT routinely restores roads used in detours to their pre-project condition, it was not clear if that policy applies to roads not part of the designated detour.

In response to the concerns, ODOT will explore an accelerated construction schedule. Financial incentives could also be built into the contract to reward early completion.

Many in the crowd liked the idea of creating a crossing over NS tracks on nearby Industry Road to accept through traffic,  but that option has many hurdles. A crossing existed there but was shut down and removed years ago.

Reopening a crossing at that spot faces some big hurdles, officials said. Among the concerns: the railroad is unlikely to cooperate, land that held the old crossing is now in private hands and Industry Road would be to be rebuilt to Route 20 standards if its expected to handle state highway traffic.

Greg Sweet, owner of a vehicle dealership on Route 20, urged the state to pursue the crossing option. Be persistent, he said.

"Don't stop at the first 'no,'" he said. "It should be simple to put in a temporary crossing."

ODOT officials said they would take the village's concerns back to the engineering department. There is time to delve deeper into options, they said.

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