Orange Township trustees are still considering a request from the state to close the Franklin Street railroad crossing.
In June, the Ohio Rail Development Commission asked Orange Township to close the railroad crossing in return for help with developing proposed trails. Township administrator Lee Bodnar said during Monday’s trustees meeting that the ORDC wants the township to commit and proceed with the closing before they will aid the township in building the trails.
“The Ohio Rail Development Commission basically shared, ‘if you want our help, we want your help,’” Bodnar said. “And basically, ‘if we don’t get your help, you won’t get any help.’”
Bodnar said when the ORDC first approached the township on the closing, the township asked for help with establishing the right-of-way for multi-use trails at the Orange Road and Lewis Center Road crossings.
ORDC public information officer Julie Kaercher presented the idea of closing the crossing during the trustees’ June 19 meeting. She said the proposed closing was based on a 2016 study stating “a low vehicular count and a high train count at that location.”
Kaercher said if trustees agreed to close the crossing, the ORDC would help establish a right-of-way for a multi-use trail to cross the tracks on Lewis Center Road, one block north of Franklin Street, and on Orange Road.
Kaercher told trustees that closing the Franklin Street crossing and trail development could be completed by the end of 2018. She said the ORDC was offering an incentive for the township to agree to the proposal, up to $237,000 in services and equipment for signal upgrades of other township rail crossings.
Bodnar said his understanding the ORDC would prefer the township commit to moving forward without an agreement in place.
“That is basically what I heard,” Bodnar said about the ORDC presentation.
Bodnar said no agreement has been crafted yet and if the township does move forward there are no guarantees of getting the items they had requested. He said, basically, he saw the township’s hands tied to doing what the ORDC wished.
Bodnar said one of the options is to do nothing at all.
“Unfortunately, it does drag it out again a little bit longer,” he said. “I don’t think that is what we want to do.”
However, Bodnar said, in the long run, “they could possibly find some loopholes in the law to accomplish their goal anyway; which would be to close Franklin Street without even talking to us.”
Trustee Rob Quigley said the township has been working to develop a trail along Orange Road for many years. He suggested that Bodnar continue talks with ORDC and at the same time the township should continue to work individually on the trail.
“I think we should also focus on simultaneously working on it ourselves,” said Quigley
The board unanimously voted to continue both endeavors hoping to make something happen.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.