Fate of train crossing still undecided

FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP- The fate of the Esterly Drive railroad crossing remains undecided.

Saying the process continues regarding action on the possible closure of the crossing, Trustee Chairman Bob Hum said after Thursday’s meeting he was unsure when the issue would be ready for a vote.

The crossing was not on the agenda and no discussion on it was held.

Mary Ann Ossoff, who is opposed to the closure, was the sole guest attending the meeting but did not speak. Previous meetings attracted a number of people on both sides of the crossing issue.

Hum said it was still being processed by D. Casey Talbott, an attorney representing Norfolk Southern that owns the crossing, and that Bob Durbin, the chief deputy engineer for Columbiana County Engineer Bert Dawson, was looking at improvements to the southwest intersection to Esterly Drive.

Closing the crossing will accommodate a closed-loop rail inside the Buckeye Realty Transfer facility where the company operates a full-service transloading station that serves the oil and gas industry. It currently distributes fracking sand by the tank-load and a brine water cleaning system is planned.

The design calls for it to accommodate Unitrains (100-car units), and a 7,200-foot section of the loop is needed to cross Esterly Drive to the north outside the main plant. It will then make a sweeping curve to the south and re-enter the facility adjacent to Norfolk Southern’s main line and the crossing at Esterly Drive.

Last month, Hum said Talbott was addressing issues relative to nearby businesses, two small plots of land and improvements to the (southwest) intersection off state Route 344 where trucks have to make a hard left turn.

If closed, the crossing, which sees about 127 trains a day including Amtrak, will leave dead-ends to the north and south on Esterly Drive.

Norfolk Southern said it will not service the Buckeye Realty facility unless the crossing is closed.

In December, trustees wanted to vote on the issue at the Jan. 23 meeting but delayed action. Hum said Thursday he just didn’t know when the issue will be voted on.

In other business, trustees addressed another railroad crossing in the township, saying it would be a good idea to place a sign at the Kelly Park Road crossing between state Route 7 and Fairfield Avenue.

Fiscal Officer Pat Hoffmaster said a letter was received from the Ohio Rail Commission regarding stop signs at passive railroad crossings.

Road Supervisor Mel Miller said it was brought up last November.

“Unless we want one, they’re not going to put one there,” he said.

Hum said, “It’s not a bad idea to have one there,” and Trustee Barry Miner said that with the railroad line sold to Mark West there could be additional traffic.

“I think we ought to get a sign,” Miner said. Miller said he would ask the ORC to remove the township name from the exemption list.

In other business, trustees wanted the improvements to the Middletown Road park added to the Ohio Township Association Risk Management Authority (OTARMA) risk pool. Last year a new chain-link fence, basketball hoops and blacktop were added.

In his report, Miller said a new clutch was installed in the White tractor and the gearbox was removed from the 1996 International truck.

“It had a pretty bad leak,” he said. Trustees approved a $900 purchase order to Point Spring & Driveshaft Co. in Kensington.

He said they also patched some holes, “but nothing too severe yet.”

He also attended a meeting on pavement management and will be making a physical inspection of the hard-surface roads to get ideas on how to use the hot mix.

Miner asked him about equipment and Miller said they “still need to think about a (new) tractor” and the 1996 truck “probably isn’t that far out” from consideration for replacement.