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Published: Wednesday, 1/24/2001

CSX plan draws 200 to Lake Twp. session

Worries about property values, pollution, and compromised public safety dominated a meeting last night of Lake Township residents and officials from a railroad that is proposing a new track in the township.

“People are what's important. Safety is what's important,” said Donna Tajblick, whose Elizabeth Drive home is within a mile of where CSX Transportation Corp.'s proposed track would cross Luckey Road at grade.

More than 200 people crowded the cafeteria of Lake Elementary School for the two-hour session that began with railroad officials explaining why they want the track and ended with residents explaining their opposition.

While CSX would need land from only five properties to build the two-mile track across the southern edge of the township, Ms. Tajblick and others said the track's impact would go far beyond the land it would touch.

Jim Hiltner, a Sylvania resident whose father owns one of the five properties, said it would be only a matter of time before a train slowed a fire truck or police car responding to an emergency call.

“Somebody's going to die, and that's priceless,” said Mr. Hiltner, who heads the Lake Township Citizens' Railroad Advisory Committee, an ad hoc group that formed to assess the track's potential consequences.

To be a good neighbor, Mr. Hiltner said, CSX should “take this plan and scrap it” - a suggestion that drew a standing ovation.

The railroad representatives pledged to respond to issues raised during the meeting after reviewing them. John Welch, a township trustee, said CSX's responses would be heard during a trustees' meeting still to be scheduled.

CSX has proposed building nearly two miles of new track to create a southern entrance to its Stanley Yard, a freight-car sorting facility that runs parallel to East Broadway in western Lake Township. The track would link an existing spur line that runs south from the yard with CSX's Toledo-Fostoria main line, which follows a parallel route to the east.

When the project first surfaced in November, CSX officials said they hoped to begin construction this spring. But Thomas Drake, a CSX vice president for public affairs, said last night the schedule has been pushed back, for public relations and financial reasons. The project is expected to cost CSX about $2.5 million.

The township trustees learned of the project when some of the five property owners complained to them of what they considered to be low offers for their property and condemnation warnings from CSX, which like other railroads has eminent domain power.

Mr. Drake apologized last night for CSX's not having notified local officials sooner, explaining that current company officials have little experience with building new track.

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