The top management of CSX Corp. wants to close Walbridge Road at a rail crossing between East Broadway and Tracy Road, the Lake Township trustees were informed Tuesday.
Ken Gilsdorf, community affairs and safety representative for the rail company, told the trustees there have been several near hits between vehicles and trains at the crossing and the company’s chief executive officer wants to proceed with having the road closed to traffic.
One of the near hits occurred while a representative of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio was on the site, Gilsdorf told the trustees, adding the company’s plans have the tentative backing of the commission.
“We do hold the deed to the land around that area,” he said.
One option would be for CSX to vacate part of the road, Gilsdorf said, and have it become privately owned by adjacent property owners. If a private road was established, CSX could install gates that were controlled remotely by the railroad because there is no yard master stationed at nearby Stanley Yard.
For the township’s emergency vehicles to have access to the crossing, a special phone line would be installed, linking township authorities to the yardmaster at the Walbridge Yard who could open the gates by remote control.
If the trustees did agree to a private road at the site, the rail company could offer a monetary gift of about $7,500 to $15,000, Gilsdorf said.
He said he’s been trying to delay any action by the company and acknowledged the trustees have had to deal with the aftermath of the June 5 tornado but CSX intends to pursue closing the road.
“I’ve stalled for a year and a half now and can’t stall much longer,” he said. While the trustees could vote to not vacate the township’s portion of the road, the company would then petition to have the crossing closed.
Melanie Bowen, who chairs the board of trustees, said the board would be seeking public input at the board’s next meetings.
“We have a lot of homework to do,” she said.
Dave Miesmer, township zoning inspector, told the trustees a final decision on vacating of roads in unincorporated areas rests with the county commissioners and recommended the trustees have the commissioners and county engineer involved early in the process.
A major business in the township, Jones-Hamilton Co., is located east of the crossing on Tracy Road.
Road paving contracts
Road paving contracts totaling $190,464 were approved by the trustees:
• Libbey Road, between Lemoyne and Luckey roads, for $73,453 and Libbey, between Luckey and East Broadway, for $61,956 will be done by Shelly Co., Fostoria.
• Commodore Street, for $55,054, will be done by Bower’s Asphalt and Paving, Inc., Walbridge.
To pay for the work, the trustees will draw from three funds - $21,500 from the road fund; $73,500 from the gasoline tax fund, and the balance from the general fund.
That they had to draw from the other funds underscores the need for more revenues for road repairs, Bowen said.
Resolutions to place two road improvement levies on the November ballot were approved in July.
The trustees are asking voters to approve a 1-mill, 5-year replacement levy and an additional 1-mill continuous levy for funding reconstruction of streets, roads, and bridges in the township road district, which covers only unincorporated areas of the township.
Both levies, if approved, will be assessed on the township’s current property valuation of about $169.1 million and each will generate approximately $169,143 annually for the road repair program.
The 5-year levy would replace an existing levy set to expire at the end of the year that generates only about $114,670 annually because it is based on 1986 property valuations.
Rising costs for repairs and resurfacing roads have strained the township’s budget, forcing the trustees to supplement that account with general fund revenues.
Last year, it cost the township about $60,000 a mile to repair roads.
In recent years, the township has only been able to repair about 1.5 miles annually – about half of what the repair program covered 10 years or so ago.