Ryan offers meeting for CSX solution

LORDSTOWN — U.S. Rep. Timothy Ryan has offered to get all parties together to obtain a solution for the long wait times during morning rush-hour at the Lyntz Townline and Salt Springs Road crossing that has caused students and parents to be late for school and work.

Ryan, D-Howland, had first written CSX Corp. officials hoping they could expedite trains carrying General Motor Co. cars from its Lordstown support yard. In his latest letter to CSX dated Oct. 20, Ryan noted the morning waits at the crossings had subsided for a while, but the problem has recently resurfaced.

“I am writing today to strongly urge you to expedite this discussion and present tangible solutions that will alleviate the traffic problems caused by CSX,” Ryan wrote to Stephen Flippin, director of Federal Affairs for CSX.

In a letter to Ryan dated Sept. 14, Flippin noted that increased demand for GM’s products and increased production to meet that demand has caused more “auto-rack railcars to transport their output”, causing the blocked crossing around the factory.

Flippin said CSX has been talking to GM management in Lordstown to review options. He said the talks, which include suggestions and modeling, are ongoing.

“We want to avoid simply passing the problem down the tracks to another community,” Flippin wrote.

In his first letter Ryan wrote on Sept. 7, the congressman mentioned an internal memo to CSX engineers that the Lordstown intersection is not to be blocked during the hours of 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. However, Flippin responded that instruction is not a mandatory operating rule but rather guidance, and is a non-binding recommendation “that should be followed unless service requirements for our customer dictate otherwise, which has been the case for GM in Lordstown.”

Ryan suggested he would be happy to host a meeting among members of the CSX operations team, GM management and United Auto Workers as well as Lordstown Schools Superintendent Terry Armstrong and Mayor Arno Hill to develop a strategy “that is feasible for all parties.”

Armstrong said high school morning bus runs have been as late as 40 minutes.

Hill said this problem has been ongoing for many years, and many conversations have taken place with railroad officials.

Ryan said the blocked crossing has also made GM workers late for their shifts at the plant.

“Surely if we want to ensure the profitability of a company, we must make certain the workers are able to arrive to work on time,” Ryan wrote.

Flippin also noted CSX has been working with first responders in Lordstown to secure a federal grant to install an advanced notification system at the Lyntz-Salt Springs crossing.