The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has scheduled the hearing for Norfolk Southern Railway Company and CSX Transportation Inc.’s joint petition to close the Franklin Street railroad crossing in Orange Township for July 9 at 6 p.m. in the Orange Branch of the Delaware County Library, 7171 Gooding Boulevard, Delaware.
The hearing will provide residents the chance to add their comments to the case record on the petition filed by the rail companies to close the crossing.
The railroads have sought to close the crossing for many years based “on grounds that there is not a demonstrable need for the crossings to exist,” states the railroads’ petition.
“Without unreasonable inconvenience or significant adverse impact to traffic patterns, emergency vehicle operation, or commercial enterprise, traffic could be diverted from the Franklin Street crossings to the nearest adjacent roads … which are equipped with active warning devices,” the petition adds.
This week, the Delaware County Board of Commissioners and the Orange Township Board of Trustees approved resolutions to file objections to the closure. Both governing bodies agree that the closure would have an irrefutable impact on residents.
“The board objects to the closure of the Franklin Street crossing, as stated in the joint petition, because there is a demonstrable need for the crossing to exist until such time as additional crossing … improvements are made in the vicinity of the proposed closure,” states the commissioners’ motion to intervene.
The commissioners’ reasoning for keeping the crossing open is the Delaware County EMS Station 3 and the impact to the residents in the area who need to travel Lewis Center Road.
“The closure will severely impact EMS response from … Station 3. Franklin Street currently serves as the primary emergency response route to areas west of the railroad during high traffic periods … and during the periodic closure for maintenance and repair of the crossing at Lewis Center Road. The resultant increased travel times severely impact the EMS medic unit, the adjacent residents, and the general public, and will continue to do so until such time as additional railroad crossing improvement projects are completed,” the commissioners’ motion states.
The commissioners, at the request of the Delaware County Engineer’s Office, authorized the motion to be filed Monday during their regularly scheduled session.
“Frequently, the crossing at Lewis Center Road is closed for maintenance by one railroad or the other,” said Chief Deputy Engineer Rob Riley in the Monday session. “… it leaves the Franklin Street crossing as the only option for EMS as well as those area residents that live in the village.”
Riley stated the only other options would be Orange Road or Shanahan Road, both of which have a lot of traffic during the day. He added that it would be six to seven years before all the nearby planned crossing improvements would be completed to allow the closure to move forward.
The projects that Riley referred to include the Home Road extension over the tracks, the Orange Road tunnel under the railroad tracks, and the Cheshire Road bridge over the tracks.
In an emergency meeting Tuesday morning, Orange Township trustees likewise authorized filing their objection with PUCO concerning the potential closing of the crossing.
“The village (Lewis Center) is landlocked, and there are no through roads within miles. Closure of these Franklin Street crossings will force EMS to follow circuitous routes … when the Lewis Center Road crossings are unavailable, which will cause a significant delay in emergency response time,” states the township’s objection. “… precious minutes are saved by EMS being able to cross the tracks at the Franklin Street crossing and then exit onto a less congested portion of Lewis Center Road, rather than exiting out onto the heavily congested area of the Lewis Center Road.”
The township’s objection also states that Orange Township’s population now hovers around 30,000, which has had a huge impact on traffic congestion.
“The increase in traffic on Lewis Center Road due to the construction of Evans Farm as well as its new residents aggravate an already difficult traffic situation for Lewis Center residents.”
The township also objects on the grounds that if the crossing is closed, it would, in essence, divide the small community of Lewis Center, cutting neighbors off from the other half of the community.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.