ODOT closing Wales for rerouting

New road will bypass busy train tracks in Northwood


Imagine trains blocking the Wales Road railroad crossings on either side of Drouillard Road for about three months.

That, in essence, is what Northwood City Administrator Bob Anderson has in mind for coping with the Ohio Department of Transportation’s plans to close the road next week so a contractor building two new overpasses can connect the new stretch of Wales bypassing the crossings to the existing road.

“It’s blocked by trains so much now, a lot of people are already using the detour ODOT’s planning,” Mr. Anderson said last week. “I don’t know that it’s going to affect us a lot.

“But now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, potentially referring both to the two years of construction to build the bridges and to the many years before that of uncertainty faced by drivers as they approached the two busy pairs of railroad tracks: Will I get through this time, or will I wait?

“Two of three times, when I take Wales, I get hit [blocked] by a train,” Mr. Anderson said.

Brenda Haddad, a local real-estate agent and a 44-year Northwood resident, knows that tune very well too.

“It’s always been a pain to be a Northwoodian” because of the trains, she said just after pulling up to the CSX Transportation crossing west of Drouillard to wait for a mile-plus train of automobile carriers to pass — only it stopped five cars short of clearing the road.

“I don’t mind waiting for a train, but when it stops like this, you don’t know when it’s going to start again,” Ms. Haddad said before turning around to get to an appointment for which she was now late. Train delays on Wales hurt real-estate values on the west side of town, she added.

She had stopped behind Bob Wilkes of Northwood, another frequent Wales Road traveler, who said he has waited as long as 35 minutes for a stopped train, and will deal with the detour as a means to getting use of the bridge that soon will carry him over the CSX trains.

CSX is the biggest problem, Mr. Wilkes said, because “by the time they get to the yard in Walbridge, they stop” — and if they’re long enough, they block the road. Trains on the Norfolk Southern crossing to the east, by contrast, usually keep moving, he said.

Wales is scheduled to close June 10 and reopen in mid-September for the tie-in construction at two locations — one just east of the Waste Management landfill and the other just west of the municipal building.

Access to scattered homes, businesses, and a church in-between will be provided from Drouillard Road, although starting in early August, Drouillard also will be closed north of Wales for project-related construction. When that happens, the only access to property near the Wales-Drouillard intersection will be from the south, through Walbridge.

Terry Mays, owner of Advanced Auto Images at Wales and Drouillard, said the long detour would be more of a threat to his business if he hadn’t already been there for 10 years and developed a steady customer base, including many local dealers.

“I knew eventually they were going to do something with an overpass,” Mr. Mays said of the project, which had been in development for more than a decade. “I’ve been around long enough and do enough through the dealers that I don’t think it’s going to hurt me.”

Mr. Mays’ business will change from being right next to the moderately busy Wales-Drouillard corner to being on a dead-end street, so the one permanent loss he expects from the project is fewer passers-by stopping to look at used cars he occasionally displays for sale in his lot.

Scores of trains cross Wales daily on both of the main lines that intersect each other northwest of Wales and Drouillard; the NS tracks also cross Drouillard.

The two bridges on Wales are to replace all three grade crossings, with the northerly stretch of Drouillard to be rerouted onto an existing part of Wales east of the tracks to connect with the new road. Motorists who now go straight will have to make a right and a left, and cross one of the Wales bridges, to stay on Drouillard once the E.S. Wagner Co. of Oregon finishes the $11.23 million project.

Two other sets of tracks cross Wales farther west, but neither set is as busy as the two crossings now being bypassed.

Northwood long has maintained two fire stations to provide coverage on both sides of the crossings. Mr. Anderson said the police department will have assigned patrols on both sides of town during the Wales closing.

The bridges are scheduled to open in September, although ODOT does not expect the project to be complete until November.

While access to property on Wales in the work area will be difficult for a few months, address changes for those properties may be an even tougher adjustment, the city administrator noted.

Mr. Anderson said he may recommend to city council that the portion of Wales to be bypassed by the overpasses be renamed Old Wales Road, rather than become part of Drouillard.

Address changes in the area also will have to be coordinated with the U.S. Postal Service, he said.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.