From June 10 through September, Wales Road, between Oram and East Broadway roads, will be closed for the Wales Road railroad overpass project.
Closure is due to new pavement tie-ins, where the old Wales Road meets a newly configured Wales Road.
“There were some utility relocations that we’re working on, but the last update I received this morning is that the road will still close on June 10,” Theresa Pollick, Ohio Department of Transportation District 2 public information officer, told The Press on Wednesday.
Pollick said ODOT has met with Northwood businesses that will be affected by the closure, which will allow access for local traffic.
“We have talked with the businesses out there and they have been kept abreast of the project throughout the whole process. We always make sure everyone has access points when doing construction. We do our best to work with everyone,” she said.
The $11.2 million project includes the construction of two overpasses over the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks on Wales Road that will effectively eliminate three railroad crossings and open up traffic that is frequently delayed by trains. Wales Road is the only east-west road linking Northwood’s business district with its westerly neighborhoods. As a result, the trains separate the east from the west sides of town. To adjust, the city had to build two fire stations on the east and west sides to avoid serious delays when emergency vehicles respond to calls.
“This project opens up the east to west artery for businesses, residents, fire and police, and school buses in Northwood,” said Mayor Mark Stoner. “No more detours because of trains. We’ve had to have two different fire stations because of the trains. You didn’t know if you were going to get blocked or delayed. We couldn’t take a chance. We also always had a police presence on both sides so there was always someone who could respond.”
The project, which also includes the realignment of Wales and Drouillard roads south of their current locations, is expected to be completed in November, according to Pollick.
Stoner said the overpasses could open up economic development, since motorists will no longer have to take detours to get around trains.
“They will be able to go through Northwood rather than use the expressways to get all the way around,” said Stoner. It’s the biggest project in Northwood. We can now go up and over the railroad tracks. It will be better for everyone involved.”
Twists and turns
The city faced several hurdles to get the overpasses built since the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) conducted a railroad corridor study in 1993 that ranked Vickers Crossing at the top of a list of area crossings needing an overpass. Approximately 130 trains cross four sets of Norfolk Southern and CSX tracks daily at Vickers, where tracks intersect, tying up traffic. The crossing, northwest of the Wales and Drouillard roads intersection, also creates delays for the port because rail shipments must wait for the crossing to clear.
TMACOG had recommended a rail-to-rail grade separation plan, which would have elevated the north-south line 30 feet above the CSX mainline at ground level, allowing trains to cross both ways at the same time.
The project got a shot in the arm in 2000, when former Governor Bob Taft traveled to Vickers Crossing to announce a $200 million, 10-year program to fund railroad overpasses in Ohio.
Northwood eventually dropped the Vickers Crossing project due to high costs, estimated at $30 million. Instead, the city chose a cheaper and more limited option of building two railroad overpasses on Wales that would eliminate three at grade crossings on Drouillard and Wales roads.
In 2006, the city learned that Congress had transferred $4 million in funds earmarked for the project to two other communities in Ohio. The project had been scheduled to start in 2007. The funds had been transferred because they were originally set aside for the construction of the rail-to-rail crossing at Vickers.
Stoner went to Columbus to get support from the Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC), which pledged to cover the shortfall in funding.
The city earmarked $900,000 for its local share of the project.
“When Taft came here, the first year I was mayor, I thought we’d get the first overpass,” Stoner reflected. “We were lucky to get even one.”
ODOT’s detour for traffic during the road closure on June 10 is Walbridge Road; I-280; Woodville Road; Oakdale Avenue; and E. Broadway. Drouillard Road at Wales Road will remain open through July.