Moving ahead with Gov. Bob Taft’s Jobs and Progress Plan, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) broke ground in June on a railroad grade separation project on State Route 269 in the city of Bellevue. Work is to be completed in summer 2006.
The SR 269 Project is part of a more than $10-million plan to build overpasses at railroad crossings, called railroad grade separation projects, in north central Ohio.
Five other projects are scheduled between 2006 and 2009 as part of ODOT and Ohio Rail Development Commission efforts to address safety issues at railroad crossings.
When fully implemented, the Jobs and Progress Plan is expected to generate more than 4,000 highway construction jobs, connect rural regions, improve road safety, and ease freeway congestion across Ohio.
“We must rebuild our stressed and outdated highway network to ensure that Ohio remains the transportation hub of the nation,” Taft said. “This aggressive, but realistic plan will improve our transportation system, create thousands of jobs across Ohio, and enhance our quality of life.”
Last November ODOT announced it had received two national safety awards from the Federal Highway Administration and the Roadway Safety Foundation, both linked to ODOT’s unique road safety program.
Of the safety awards, Taft said, “As more vehicles travel our roads every year, safety continues to be a top priority for ODOT. Ohio is committed to doing its part to reduce fatalities and make our roads as safe as possible for Ohioans and other motorists.”
“The railroad grade separation projects in north central Ohio are prime examples of why Govenor Bob Taft created this program,” said ODOT Director Gordon Proctor, of the Jobs and Progress Plan. “It is rewarding to see Ohio communities like Bellevue benefit from projects that improve safety and mobility.”
Rail company mergers have created increased train traffic in many Ohio communities.
The governor’s 10-year, $200-million initiative provides funds for approximately 30 rail separation projects in communities across the state.
Statewide, seven have begun work and another 23 projects have been given funding commitments. Most will be constructed by 2010 through the Rail Grade Separation Program.
Mosser Construction Inc. of Fremont, OH, was awarded the $4.3-million project and is constructing the overpass over the railroad tracks in Bellevue.
The overpass is offset from the current alignment and will route SR 269 traffic into Bellevue.
The current roadway serves approximately 3,000 vehicles per day and is the only route to businesses and homes on the south side of Bellevue.
The new alignment will allow the current road to become a local road with much lower traffic volumes, according to a report by Brian Stacy, public information officer of the District 3 ODOT office.
According to Jorge Baez, project manager of Mosser Construction, the big issue is working over the railroad tracks.
He estimated there are 50 to 80 trains per day going through the construction site. Permits to set the center spans require the tracks to be cleared of trains before setting the girders in place.
Working with Norfolk Southern Railroad, train traffic is stopped to allow one-hour windows for the overhead work.
Two 300-ton cranes set the girders in place while workers on man-lifts weld the fly splices where the spans meet. “Each girder weighs between 10 and 20 tons,” said Baez.
Working within the one-hour windows creates a hurry-up-and-wait atmosphere, but Baez is quick to add, “the end result is good for everyone.”
“The city of Bellevue is representative of communities across Ohio that are in need of relief due to increased train frequency, traffic volume and lack of alternate routes to avoid railroad crossings,” said David Kile, Mayor of Bellevue. “The project will provide immediate benefits in terms of reducing congestion, increasing mobility and improving police and fire service response time.”
Approximately 30 projects have been selected from applications submitted by communities affected by increased rail traffic. These projects are to be completed by 2010 through the Rail Grade Separation Program.
Approximately 60 percent of the funding for these projects is provided by ODOT and is in place.
The Ohio Legislature, local governments, the federal government, and the railroads will make up the funding shortfall.
Taft has worked with Ohio’s Congressional Delegation to gain additional federal transportation funding. CEG