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Although construction is still a year away, Lucas County officials have taken steps to acquire property and businesses that are in the path of the McCord Road Underpass project.
County commissioners approved a request last week from County Engineer Keith Earley to purchase property for the $17.5 million project through eminent domain.
Some of the property being sought by the county will be used to extend a street located east of South McCord to create a temporary detour over the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks while McCord is closed, and construct a retention pond and pump station.
"There are five owners we have not reached an agreement on the price for compensation for their properties," said Mr. Earley, whose office is collaborating with the Ohio Department of Transportation on the project.
"We have asked the commissioners for permission to begin appropriation proceedings."
The project, which will include digging under the grade crossing on McCord and constructing a bridge wide enough for four tracks, is expected to go to bid early next year, with construction starting soon after.
A mix of federal, state, and county dollars will fund the underpass project, which is designed to eliminate the busy railroad crossing. More than 24,000 vehicles pass the grade crossing every day, while as many as 100 trains a day use the tracks.
Safety at the crossing became an issue in late 2009 after a Springfield High student was killed and a second lost a leg when the two tried to run across the track in front of an Amtrak train.
While the county has built overpasses at railroads in the past, this will be the first railroad underpass project undertaken by the engineer's office.
Mr. Earley said ODOT plans to finish the project in September, 2016, but he is less optimistic and is looking at sometime in 2017 to reopen McCord.
The county commissioners' action paves the way for the county prosecutor to file Common Pleas Court petitions to seize land through eminent domain. Taking landowners to court, Mr. Earley said, will be a last resort, with attempts to negotiate agreements continuing and mediation potentially to follow. The five parcels have been appraised at $903,685.
"If we can't figure something out, then [the judge] will set a court date for a trial," he said.
The county must have access to the five properties by August, when utility relocation work is to begin.
So far, the county has reached agreements with 11 property owners affected by the project, at a cost of $1,653,381. That includes Springfield Local Schools, which was paid $773,820 for land it controls along the railroad that will be converted into an embankment for temporary tracks. The school also was compensated for land to build a traffic roundabout at McCord, Hall Street, and North Mall Drive.
With the acquisition of the school property, the county has secured all the land it needs south of the railroad tracks for the project.
In anticipation of the project, the county bought the former Wickes Lumber Co. on the east side of McCord for $855,000 in 2010. Storage buildings that were part of the lumber yard will be demolished to make way for the temporary street that will connect North Mall to Angola Road.
"I think acquiring that property showed the federal government that we were very serious about doing this project," said Mark Drennen, the engineer's administrative deputy.
The project's first phase, scheduled for March, will be building the temporary bridge for the Norfolk Southern tracks and the bypass road on Holland Park Boulevard, parallel to McCord.
After the tracks are detoured and the Holland Park extension is completed, work will proceed — likely in spring or summer of 2015 — on digging out the underpass. McCord will be closed to traffic during construction for about 1.5 years.
The roundabout at McCord, North Mall, and Hall, which is the first in the county to have double lanes, also will be built during 2015.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6199.