The closing of a railroad crossing at Lord and Harmar streets in Marietta could result in funding for improvements to other streets in that area, but residents living near the intersection aren't sure closing off Lord Street is a good idea.
"I can't see what they're going to gain by closing that crossing," said Richard Williams, who's lived in the area since 1956.
"And if they block off the crossing ambulances and fire trucks will have a harder time getting here," he added. "There are quite a few older people living in this neighborhood."
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
A vehicle passes through the intersection and railroad crossing at Lord and Harmar streets in Marietta Tuesday.
In July city officials met with representatives from the Ohio Railroad Development Commission (ORDC), Ohio Department of Transportation and CSX Transportation to discuss the possibility of closing some rail crossings along Harmar Street.
The Prospect and Harmar streets crossing has also been considered, but in the most recent correspondence with the city only the Lord Street crossing has been mentioned, according to Julianne Kaercher, public information officer with ORDC.
"The railroad wants to close some crossings to help address safety and maintenance issues," she explained. "And there is incentive money available, a combination of funding from CSX and the state, that can be offered to cities if they agree to close a railroad crossing."
A proposal that could result in the closing of the Lord Street railroad crossing is being considered by city officials, CSX Transportation and the Ohio Railroad Development Commission.
City officials say no decision has been made on the proposal, and public hearings would be conducted soon before moving ahead with any project.
Kaercher said the latest offering to Marietta would include a rehab of Harmar Street from Lancaster to Lord Street, installation of barriers at the Lord Street crossing and possible improvements to the railroad crossing on Fort Harmar Drive at the west end of the Washington Street Bridge.
Lord Street resident Everett Kostelnik said closing the crossing is a bad idea.
"I think it's a dumb idea," he said. "It will hinder police and fire access, and the neighbors are going to have to find other ways to get to their homes."
But city officials emphasize that no agreement has been reached, and if a plan is considered it would require public hearings to receive community input before anything could be done.
"We've never made any decision on this," said Mayor Joe Matthews. "And we want to have plenty of public involvement."
City engineer Joe Tucker agreed, adding that he plans to set up a meeting with city council's streets and transportation committee in the next couple of weeks to present information about the proposed project.
"I'm not making any hard, fast recommendations to council about which way to go with this," he said. "I just want to present the results of a safety study of the Harmar Street crossings that was commissioned by the ORDC."
Tucker said the study was performed on the CSX rail line that runs along the center of Harmar Street.
"The purpose was to look at recommendations for improving safety in that area," he said. "There are currently some conflicts for cars, pedestrians and rail traffic along Harmar Street."
Tucker added that the railroad tracks also present a problem for meeting Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards.
"The rails can be problematic for someone in a wheelchair who wants to cross the street," he said. "But before we can entertain any closure of a street there would have to be public hearings."
Harmar Street resident Pete Luttrell lives near the Lord Street intersection, and said he wouldn't mind the crossing being closed because it would cut down on traffic.
"We have children and sometimes cars travel 40 mph through here," he said. "I think closing the crossing could be good if they would give us a cul-de-sac area to turn our cars around at the end of the street."
Councilman Denver Abicht, D-at large, who chairs the streets and transportation committee, said no public hearings have been scheduled as yet because the committee wants to learn more about the proposal. The hearings will be announced when they are scheduled.
Kaercher said if an agreement can be reached to close a crossing, work would likely begin next spring.