City planning four railroad crossing replacements this summer

Partnership with Wheeling & Lake Erie fast tracks project

by Bob Gaetjens | Editor Published:

By the end of the summer, it will be smooth travel for motorists traversing four of the city's railroad crossings.

Mayor Glenn Broska said the city has offered to pay 50 percent or $87,000 of the cost associated with replacing the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co. owned crossings on Seasons Road, Wellman Road, Aurora-Hudson Road and Ravenna Road this summer.

Wheeling & Lake Erie has agreed to pay for the other half and administrate the $174,000 project, according to Dan Reinsel, assistant vice president of engineering for Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway.

"The parties have agreed that if it does cost more, we'll cover the costs. If anyone's at risk financially, it's the railroad," said Reinsel. "Hopefully, we're doing these in a 60- to 90-day window."

Broska said he'd like to get the Seasons Road crossing completed before the city repaves the road this summer.

"I want the first one to be done on Seasons Road," he said, adding bids for repaving the road were made public last week.

Reinsel agreed completing the Seasons Road crossing first makes sense.

"The best job that can be performed is for us to put the crossing down and then allow the asphalt surfacing to come right up to it," he said.

One notable omission to this year's plans is the crossing on Route 303 near the flood prone area.

Broska said he plans to have that railroad crossing replaced as part of the plan to raise the road surface in 2016.

Broska said he talked to Wheeling & Lake Erie last year about redoing the city's crossings. He said he was told then the railroad company is responsible for "literally thousands" of crossings and the railway companies "do them when they get to them."

The city's getting a bargain on the partnership, he said.

"Other communities had opted to [fix crossings] immediately and paid 100 percent," he said.

Reinsel agreed the partnerships can work well for cities because when they share in the cost, they "go to the top of the list" of crossings to be repaired or replaced.

Reinsel said the type of crossing the railway is planning to use is relatively new but appears to be long-lasting.

"There are two grooves in this huge piece of concrete that the rails sit in," he said.

The slab of concrete is usually around 8 feet wide and 13 inches thick, according to engineering drawings provided by the city of Streetsboro. The rail is anchored in the cement by clips embedded in the cement from below and with anchor bolts from above.

Broska said he expects the lifespan on the new crossings to be at least 15 years.

"They haven't had to replace any of them yet," he said. "The first one in the area is on Fulton Road in Canton."

Because there are no moving parts, Reinsel said the new design has proved strong.

"I don't think any of them have been out there for 20 years," he said. "I know going back maybe eight years is the oldest one I remember, and there's no degradation at all; it's not even bumpy."

Traditional crossings have been made with rubber, wood, concrete, asphalt or a combination of those materials, he explained.

"The more asphalt you use, the shorter the life of the crossing," he said.

Older style concrete crossings have three or four separate slabs of concrete, one running parallel to the left of tracks, one or two between the tracks and one to the right of the tracks, and they tend to shift over time, according to Reinsel.

Rubber tracks work well for low traffic crossings, but any crossing where a lot of cars and tracks use the road is a bad place for rubber, he said. The rubber tends to get beaten down in wear tracks as traffic crosses.

"What it doesn't have success with, is when you have any kind of heavy traffic," he said.

Wooden crossings are "OK" because they are easier to repair when screws and bolts come loose, he said, but they tend to move around easily, he said.

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

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