The Lake Township trustees have rejected a request from CSX Transportation for the township to vacate Walbridge Road at a CSX crossing so the rail company can close the crossing to traffic.
After holding a third public hearing Tuesday on the company’s request, the trustees unanimously approved a resolution to deny it and send a letter to Ken Gilsdorf, community affairs and safety representative for CSX, informing the rail company of their decision.
Gilsdorf presented the CSX request to the trustees in October.
CSX had offered the township $10,000 if the trustees agreed to permanently close Walbridge Road at the crossing, which is located between East Broadway and Tracy Road.
The trustees voted on the request after hearing from residents, a member of the union representing CSX employees, and the chief s of the township’s police and fire departments.
Fire Chief Todd Walters said there had been separate spills recently of diesel fuel and ammonia nitrate near the company’s Stanley Yard. In the case of ammonia and hazardous material spills, Chief Walters said, emergency responders may need the Walbridge Road crossing to approach the site from a direction upwind of the spill.
The closing of the crossing would add four to six miles for emergency vehicles trying to reach businesses on Tracy Road, he said.
CSX had contended closing the crossing would improve safety as there have been several “near hits” involving trains and motorists.
“The benefits of a grade crossing closure for a community are many: increased safety for area residents, elimination of car-train crashes, elimination of cut-through traffic, reduction of road maintenance costs, and reduction of noise pollution due to no need for train horns or ringing bells,” Gilsdorf wrote in a letter to trustees..
His letter says the daily count of motor vehicles at the crossing is only 28, according to an inventory in 2007 by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and there is anothe crossing motorists can use 1 ½ miles to the south where a State Route 795 overpass crosses CSX tracks.
Richard Welling, a trustee, however, cited figures from the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments that show an average annual daily traffic count of 600 on Walbridge Road between Tracy and East Broadway. The count was conducted in 2009.
Michael O’Brock, representing the United Transportation Union, said CSX management would use the closing to reduce two-person crews on remote-controlled locomotives to one person, which would create another safety hazard.
A resident who farms in the township said closing the road would force him to drive slow-moving farm machinery along State Route 795, which also poses a hazard.
Police Chief Mark Hummer said safety problems “would be magnified greatly by closing” the road.
“Their (CSX) argument doesn’t hold water,” he said.
Gilsdorf didn’t attend the trustees’ meeting.
Previously, he told the trustees one option open to CSX if they didn’t voluntarily vacate that portion of Walbridge Road would be to petition the PUCO to have it closed.
Construction of the new township administration building on Cummings Road is ahead of schedule, Chief Hummer, who is also the township administrator, told the trustees.
Weather permitting, work crews should have the roof in place within a month or so, he said, adding there are 30 to 40 workers on the site daily.
He projected if the work progresses as it has so far, the building could be open by April 22, about a month earlier than originally projected.
Melanie Bowen, who chairs the board of trustees, said the trustees have already picked out carpeting and tiling for the new building, which is replacing the former administration building destroyed in a June 5 tornado.