Separation Project to Ease Iron Triangle in Fostoria

Sat January 30, 2010 - Midwest Edition
Linda J. Hutchinson

Fostoria, located in Seneca County in northwest Ohio, will finally get its bridge to carry Jones Road over the existing CSX Railroad. The estimated start date is April 2010, with completion expected in summer 2011.

Total funding for the $10.6 million project will come from a variety of sources, including $3.9 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The contract for the Jones Road project has not yet been awarded.

“The majority of industrial activity in Fostoria is centered near Jones Road and the CSX line. Fostoria is a community with three major rail lines crossing at different angles and different locations. This creates a problem where railroad traffic blocks vehicular traffic in various locations,” said Theresa Pollick, public information officer of Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), district two. “Trains often stop, slow, or yield to other trains crossing the lines. Additionally, a new ethanol facility has increased grain truck traffic in the area.”

The three rail lines form “Iron Triangles” around Fostoria’s industrial areas, designated so because these areas could become isolated by the railroads, explained Pollick.

A railroad grade separation has been built over one of the rail lines, but the Jones Road project has been put on hold for lack of funding — twice.

“In December 2007, the Jones Road project was among several grade separation projects across the state that could not be funded through the department’s Railroad Grade Separation Program — a 10 year $200 million program created in 2000 to eliminate dangerous and congested at-grade rail crossings throughout the state. The program simply ran out of funding due to higher-than-anticipated construction costs, advanced project needs, and over-programming,” said Pollick.

Mayor John Davoli announced at the November 2009 Fostoria City Council meeting that not only was Fostoria’s Jones Road project back on, but rather than receiving $3.3 million, which had been requested, the project would be receiving $3.9 million with additional funds coming from savings on other ODOT projects.

“Fostoria is stimulated at last,” Davoli said.

To Fostoria, ODOT’s additional funds may mean the city will not have to use all of the $500,000 set aside for the project. According to Davoli, the engineering and environmental work has been completed and property has been purchased for the overpass.

When the project was put on hold in 2005, Fostoria was informed by ODOT district manager Dave Dysard that the city might have to come up with $1 million over and above the $500,000 set aside, for the project to be considered. At that time ODOT was approximately $60 million over budget on its other projects across the state.

“We’ve got $60 million worth of disappointment to hand out and I happen to be the unfortunate messenger to share with you that the disappointment gets to come home to roost in the city of Fostoria,” Dysard announced.

In 2005 the estimated cost was considered to be $11.6 million, which was more than twice the cost the city council had estimated. The CSX Railroad pledged to put up five percent of the cost, with Fostoria coming up with five percent. However, this still left a gap of $3 million in funding, before the project was put on hold.

In 2008 when funding failed again, Dysard explained to the council that money from the consumption tax on gasoline was down four percent from the previous year and that while gas prices had risen, the amount of money given to the state had remained the same.

“Also, at the exact same time that is happening, all of our construction costs have blown through the roof,” Dysard said.

ODOT’s contingency plan included deferring projects for two years.

The first of the three overpasses included in the agenda to alleviate Fostoria’s Iron Triangles was completed in 2006 by Mosser Construction of Fremont. The Tiffin Street bridge took less than nine months to complete at a cost of $4.8 million. According to Norman Redick, ODOT’s district two deputy director, most of the funding came from former Gov. Bob Taft’s $200 million program intended to alleviate railroad-related traffic and emergency-response delays.

The second of the three overpasses was to be the Loudon Township Road 43 east of the city connecting to a new street into Fostoria’s eastern Iron Triangle and was scheduled to begin in 2008. That project remains unfunded according to Pollick.

ODOT’s 2010 – 2011 business plan includes showcasing the historic investments being made in Ohio’s transportation system and its partnership with the state’s private and public sectors to offer safer, more multi-modal, and greener choices for travel and shipping, according to a recent press release.

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