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Published: Wednesday, 7/7/2004

Swanton: Fewer homes to be affected in new plan for overpass

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SWANTON - Waiting for a long, slow train to pass through a road intersection is enough to bring on a headache for a motorist, but when the train stops and sits for a long time, the irritation level skyrockets.

An average of 80 to 90 trains roll across Hallett Avenue each day, Swanton administrator Jon Gochenour said, and that can add up to a lot of irritated motorists, he said.

A plan for an overpass to carry the avenue over the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks to help alleviate traffic when trains block the intersection has been in the works since November, 2000. The Ohio Department of Transportation recently modified it to affect fewer homeowners - six instead of 15.

"When the project is designed, we will know exactly how many will be affected," Mr. Gochenour said, adding that the design process is under way.

The six properties state officials are considering buying so the project can happen are:

●14219 and 14256 Brindley Rd.

●508 and 510 Chestnut St.

●2737 South Fulton Lucas Rd.

●111 Hallett Ave.

Ed Snyder of 14256 Brindley Road said he is not surprised his property is one of the six.

"We were kind of expecting it," he said, adding that he has been prepared for it since his family moved to the property 20 years ago. "When you live this close to railroad tracks, we knew something might happen some day. We just wish we had more notice."

Mr. Snyder said he is relieved he learned about the overpass proposal before his family built a new house on the property but is itching for something to happen.

"It's frankly just to the point where if they're going to buy us out, then we would like to be bought out," he said. "We're sorta stuck in limbo."

In Swanton, there are crossover switches at the west and east sides of town, and one reason trains stop and block intersections is to wait for other trains to pass.

"They know they are not allowed to block the tracks, and if they do, it's usually for something beyond their control," Mr. Gochenour said. "Usually they're very conscientious about not stopping on a main roadway."

If a train is stopped and blocks an intersection for more than

15 minutes, the conductor can be ticketed under Ohio law, said Swanton patrolman Chris Blosser. In Swanton, Mr. Blosser said the $100 tickets are given out sporadically - generally, up to five per week.

Funds were allocated for the Swanton project from the $140 million funneled out by Ohio for railroad grade separations, said Brian Cunningham, communications director for ODOT.

Mr. Gochenour said the project is estimated to cost $4.6 million to $7.1 million, with Swanton paying 5 percent of the cost.

Mr. Cunningham said Swanton is one of eight projects under study. The environmental phase of the study should be completed in January, 2006, and construction is scheduled to begin after January, 2007. The project will take about two years to complete, he said.

"When the overpass is finished, trains will stop under the overpass," Mr. Gochenour said. "Unless it's an extremely, extremely long train, it will not block traffic."

Contact Erika Ray at:

eray@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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