MARIETTA A proposal to close the CSX Railroad crossing at Lord and Harmar streets in exchange for an upgrade to another CSX crossing has not been well-received by residents in the Lord and Harmar streets neighborhood and will not take place.
During two public hearings held in the neighborhood this week by Marietta City Council's streets and transportation committee, residents made it clear they want to keep the Lord Street crossing open, and city council has agreed.
"This is like blackmail-closing a street crossing where there's never been an accident. Why are we even talking about it?" asked Peter Luttrell, who lives on Harmar Street.
Patsy Hupp, who lives on the corner of Lord and Harmar streets, said the proposed street closing is all about money.
"I think (CSX) just wants the city to help them get money to fix something they would have to fix anyway," she said.
Approximately 20 residents attended both public hearings on Monday and Wednesday this week.
Councilman Denver Abicht, who chairs the streets and transportation committee, said council would not consider legislation to close Lord Street.
"After listening to all of the constituents who attended these meetings, we know how you feel," he said. "This will not go into legislation."
City Engineer Joe Tucker said the proposal to close the Lord Street crossing came out of a July meeting with CSX, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Rail Development Commission, arranged with the assistance of Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta.
"I've been communicating with CSX for at least seven years, trying to get something done, especially on Harmar Street and the crossing at Fort Harmar Drive and Washington Street," Tucker said.
He said the July meeting was to discuss an ORDC-authorized safety study on Harmar Street where CSX Railroad tracks run down the middle of the roadway.
The ORDC study initially recommended closing railroad crossings at the Prospect and Lord streets intersections with Harmar Street, but Prospect Street was eventually dropped from the proposal.
Tucker said because railroad crossings are considered a potential safety hazard, CSX can receive state funding for every crossing that's closed. CSX can then use that funding to make improvements to other locations.
Closing of the Lord Street crossing would open an opportunity for CSX to obtain money from the ORDC that would help the railroad company fund improvements to the major crossing at Fort Harmar Drive near the west end of the Washington Street Bridge, he said.
"This is an opportunity the city can choose to move forward on or not. But nobody's made up their mind on this yet," Tucker said Monday, adding that the public meetings were an important way to learn how the community felt about the proposal.
He also said that as far as he knew, there had been no problems with accidents at the Lord and Harmar streets intersection.
In exchange for the closure of the Lord Street crossing, ORDC and CSX offered rehabilitation of rail line from Lancaster Street to Lord Street, including rail seal product that would be applied along the entire length of the tracks in that area, and the sidewalk on the north side of Lancaster would be included in the project.
CSX also agreed to coordinate asphalt application with city so it could be done under one contract.
Tucker clarified CSX is going to upgrade Harmar Street this fall, no matter what is decided about Lord Street. That project is slated for mid-October, according to a recent letter from CSX to the city.
"We did invite representatives from CSX, ORDC and ODOT to attend these public meetings," Tucker said.
None of the representatives showed up, although Thompson attended Monday's.
Councilman Tom Vukovic said getting CSX to discuss concerns with the city has been difficult, and he hoped the July meeting would be a window of opportunity to finally get repairs done on Harmar Street and at the Fort Harmar Drive and Washington Street Bridge crossing.
"The proposal to close Lord Street has nothing to do with the CSX paving of Harmar Street-that will happen anyway," Vukovic said.
Tucker said he would still pursue an upgrade to the Fort Harmar Drive and Washington Street Bridge crossing, similar to the recent upgrade at Moore's Junction a few miles south on Ohio 7.
He said the upgrade could possibly be done with combined funding from CSX, ODOT and the city of Marietta.