The changes call for the current four-way stop at Chestnut Ridge and Root roads to become a two-way stop in the coming weeks to keep the Root Road railroad crossing clear of traffic following back-ups caused by passing trains.
“There are certain times when there is heavy traffic at that spot that backs up all the way to the tracks,” City Engineer Scott Wangler said. “Cars going south on Root stack up when trains pass, and once the train clears, there’s a mass of vehicles all moving at once to the intersection.”
As long as drivers keep the Root Road railroad tracks clear, there should ideally be no problems. But that’s not always the case, Wangler said.
“Drivers approaching the rail crossing should not cross until they see a spot clear on the other side, but if cars in front of them stop short, then they’re stuck on the tracks,” Wangler said.
While traffic can be backed up a few hundred feet on Root Road to the tracks from the Chestnut Ridge Road intersection by the passage of trains, there have been no reports of anyone actually straddling the tracks with their vehicle, Wangler said.
And he hopes to keep it that way by removing stop signs on Root, which will keep motorists moving — and the nearby tracks clear — by not requiring them to stop at Chestnut Ridge.
The crossing is one of four in town that is being upgraded with “quiet zone” crossings, which generally consist of flashing lights and double gates on either side of railroad tracks that block all lanes of traffic to keep drivers from maneuvering vehicles around a single gate to get onto the tracks.
The gates also are designed to eliminate the need for approaching trains to blow their whistles to alert traffic. Residents have long endured substantial noise from the 70 to 80 trains said to pass through town each day.
Planning for the $2.5 million “quiet zone” crossings project began after the city learned it would receive $800,000 in federal stimulus funds for the work, along with nearly $700,000 earmarked in federal funds designated for Ohio by Congress. The new gate system also will be installed at crossings on Chestnut Ridge, Race and Maddock roads.
The remainder of the project is being paid for by Norfolk Southern railroad, which owns and controls the tracks traversing the city, and the Ohio Rail Development Commission.
The city will spend $355,000 upfront for traffic lights, road markings and magnetized sensors embedded in road surfaces at the four crossings. The city may be reimbursed for some of its share under development commission’s guidelines that provide for such repayment from unused stimulus or federal earmark funds.
New traffic signs will be temporarily posted on Chestnut Ridge Road to alert drivers to the coming change in traffic patterns.
“I want to make it in-your-face so people on Chestnut Ridge will realize the people on Root will no longer be stopping,” Wangler said.
The new signs are expected to go up in the coming weeks.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.