Lordstown to address crossing

Village to consider building bridges

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Lordstown fire Chief Travis Eastham stands at the intersection of Muth and Salt Springs roads in the village near the CSX railroad crossing. Vehicles on the roadways often have to wait for a period of time at the crossing while train cars stop to load and unload cargo. The General Motors complex is nearby. Village officials are exploring construction of a bridge over the tracks to ease safety and traffic concerns.

LORDSTOWN — A more than $5 million projected price tag for the construction of a bridge at Salt Springs and Muth roads has village leaders considering their options to improve safety and ease traffic concerns at this intersection.

Mayor Arno Hill, police and fire Chiefs Brent Milhoan and Travis Eastham and other village leaders also are willing to explore building a second bridge at Lyntz Road and Muth Road.

“We were thinking we may be able to obtain either some state or federal funds, a grant, and, perhaps, assistance from CSX,” Hill said.

Village leaders and residents have been concerned about activity at these two intersections along the CSX railroad for more than a decade. Trains traveling these tracks often stop and park, so their cars can either be loaded or unloaded, causing traffic at the crossings to be backed up.

The stops can range from only a few moments of inconvenience to more than an hour of frustration for anyone unfortunate enough to be driving in the area.

Eastham emphasized because no one knows when a train is going to stop, this is a safety issue.

“In 2015, when we were responding to a fire that was eight house from the intersection of Salt Springs Road and Muth, the first fire truck crossed the tracks to the west side to make it to the fire,” he said. “The second fire truck, emergency services vehicle, ambulances and other departments supporting us could not get across because a train had stopped on the track.”

The other emergency vehicles had to turn around and take another route to the fire, adding an additional 15 minutes.

“There definitely was more damage to the house,” Eastham said. “Having no backup placed the firefighters that made it to the fire in greater danger.”

Eastham, a 25-year veteran with the fire department, said the village’s ambulance often has to go around one or both of these tracks to get to calls.

“A few minutes can be the difference between a person suffering from traumatic injury or a lesser one,” Eastham said.

Milhoan said police cars generally can more easily turn around and drive to calls across town than firefighters can traveling in larger trucks.

However, he added, that even a few moments delay could make a difference when officers are responding to a domestic violence call.

“It can be a matter of getting to someone in time to keep them safe,” he said.

In addition to safety concerns, Lordstown Schools Superintendent Terry Armstrong said the stopped trains disrupt the school day during morning pickup and afternoon dropoff of students. The district has problems about five times per month, Armstrong said.

“Delays last anywhere from six minutes to 22 minutes,” Armstrong said. “While delays can make students late to school, they are not marked tardy if the bus delays them.

Parents’ work schedules may also be affected because they are trapped at one of the railroad crossings, Armstrong said.

Milhoan described having discussions with various CSX representatives over the years about finding a resolution to the problem.

“They have given us a number to call if there is a real emergency,” Milhoan said. “We are not to use it for traffic delays. We are to use it for actual life-threatening emergencies.”

The village has never used the emergency number, Milhoan said.

CSX Spokeswoman Gail Lobini in a written statement noted the company strives to be a good neighbor in all the communities in which it is located and works to minimize the impact of its operations.

“We apologize to the residents of Lordstown for the inconvenience and disruption that results when crossings are blocked,” Lobini said.

The company’s goal is to keep freight moving safely and efficiently in all communities along its network while serving its customers.

“We understand that challenges exist and we are focused on reducing the impact of our operations in the area,” she noted. “CSX has made several operational changes to mitigate the impact of blocked crossings in Lordstown and continues to review operations for additional improvements.”

Hill said the village leaders have over the years attempted to work with former state Sen. Capri Cafaro and current U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan in addressing the problem, but to little avail.

Hill said he discussed the issue earlier this year while in Washington during a mayor’s conference at the White House.