The Ohio Department of Transportation plans to purchase property in Northwood’s right-of-way at Wales and Drouillard roads as part of the $22 million Wales Road grade separation project.
The project includes the construction of two overpasses on Wales Road, one over the CSX tracks, the other over the Norfolk Southern tracks. Plans call for Wales Road to be relocated to the south, just west of the municipal building.
“It will go up and over the Norfolk Southern tracks, come back to Drouillard Road, and then go up and over the CSX tracks on Wales,” said Mayor Mark Stoner.
The project has been delayed since the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) conducted a railroad corridor study in 1993 that ranked Vickers Crossing in Northwood at the top of a list of area crossings needing an overpass. Approximately 130 trains cross four sets of Norfolk Southern and CSX at-grade tracks daily at Vickers Crossing, 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.
Northwood eventually dropped the Vickers Crossing project due to high costs, estimated at $30 million. Instead, the city decided to build the two railroad overpasses on Wales that would effectively eliminate three at-grade crossings on Drouillard and Wales roads, estimated to cost $15 million at the time.
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 later traveled to Columbus to get support from the Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC), which pledged to cover the shortfall in funding.
Northwood has long been plagued by rail congestion on Wales Road, which makes it difficult to drive from one side of Northwood to the other. Emergency vehicles and school buses are particularly impacted by stoppages. Police and fire emergency vehicles get around the congestion by taking Oakdale.
The overpasses will alleviate all that and reunite the city, said Stoner.
“It will also make it easier for businesses. If they have to get a shipment to go out, it’s easier to run over to I-280,” said Stoner.
The city has earmarked $800,000 as part of its required local match.
ODOT has moved the project to Tier 1, a priority for funding, said Bacon.
“We’re actually seeing something happen now. The fact that they’re purchasing property tells me they’re serious,” said Bacon.
“The schedule is to bid the project in July, 2010. Construction wouldn’t begin until a month after that. That’s the best case scenario if the funding is there,” she said.
The stimulus bill recently passed by Congress goes toward shovel-ready projects, which frees up state funds for such projects as the Wales Road overpasses, said Bacon.