If the crowd at Tuesday’s meeting of the Lake Township trustees is any indication, a request by CSX Transportation for the township to vacate Walbridge Road at a CSX crossing so the rail company can close the crossing to traffic will be met with a resounding “no.”
Asked to raise their hands if they oppose closing of the crossing, nearly two dozen residents did so, while only one resident expressed support.
CSX is offering the township $10,000 if the trustees agree to permanently close Walbridge Road at the crossing, which is located between East Broadway and Tracy Road.
The offer is conditional. CSX would place a barricade across the resulting private grade crossing at its own expense and motorists would be prohibited from using it. CSX would allow police, fire, and emergency medical service vehicles to use the private crossing in emergencies when “practicable” a letter from CSX to the trustees says.
But residents told the trustees closing the crossing would be a significant burden.
Although the crossing is often blocked by stopped trains, students at Owens Community College, employees of businesses at the western end of the township, and others routinely use the crossing, many residents said.
Many motorists are forced to use the overpass on State Route 795 as an alternative route.
“It’s a lot of time wasted,” said Daniel Keller, a Latcha Road resident.
A letter to the trustees from Ken Gilsdorf, community affairs and safety representative for CSX, cites figures from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) that the daily count of motor vehicles using the crossing is only 28.
Residents questioned that figure, saying it was low and that the crossing would be used more by motorists if the crossing wasn’t blocked so often by trains.
Richard Welling, a trustee, said he will ask the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments to update traffic surveys it conducted on township roads, including Walbridge Road, for another count of traffic near the crossing.
“I don’t buy the 28 figure at all,” he said.
Jim Pastor, a Walbridge Road resident, said delays caused by emergency medical vehicles having to use an alternate route could result in a death.
Since a June 5 tornado destroyed the township administration building, the paramedic unit is now housed at a fire station on Walbridge Road – farther from the Route 795 overpass than when the unit was in the administration building on Cummings Road.
Ron Sims, a trustee, said he and the chief and assistant chief of the township fire department rode with CSX officials in a fire truck to gauge the impact of closing the crossing.
“The response to their own yard is going to be hurt,” Sims said, noting the township has responded to hazardous material spill calls in the past.
Tom Hays, township solicitor, told residents the trustees have the option of rejecting the rail company’s request but CSX will have the option to appeal to the PUCO. The trustees would be allowed to present testimony to the commission, including the impact on emergency vehicles.
The trustees plan to allocate time during their Dec. 7 meeting to accept comments from the public before making a decision.