Thursday, July 27, 2000

Hamilton presses railroads to fix crossings




By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — It's been a bumpy summer for Hamilton drivers who must traverse the city's many railroad crossings — often at a crawl to avoid damaging their vehicles.

        The potholed crossings have brought complaints from city officials to CSX Corp., which owns many of the crossings. The railroad says it'll have the crossings repaired by fall.

        But that's small comfort to people such as Tamara Blackwell of Hamilton. She blames the crossings' rough conditions for ruining her car's front tires.

        “I almost stop and just crawl over them,” she said. “If the city had been able to do something about it, I wouldn't have been out $175. This is crazy.”

        Though officials regularly field complaints from motorists about uneven or rough crossings, there is little the city can do because crossings belong to the railroads.

        “The city does not have any authority over the railroad property and would be exposed to extreme liability if we made any kind of unauthorized repair on the track,” City Manager Steve Sorrell said. “It's something that needs to be addressed in an expedited manner because of the potential for liability and car damage.”

        Hamilton Public Works Director Mike Samoviski said

        about half of the 43 crossings in the city need some attention, and seven are particularly bad.

        He said the railroads “have not responded very quickly. They have made some repairs, but not to our satisfaction.”

        Mr. Sorrell said he has received word from CSX that all of its crossings in Hamilton will be fixed by fall. Most of the crossings in Hamilton that need repair belong to CSX.

        “They'll get to us as soon as they can,” Mr. Sorrell said. “I certainly trust their promise. We've offered to find a professional contractor to do the work ... but that was not an acceptable solution.”

        Problems with crossings are generally seasonal, popping up in the spring after the freeze-thaw cycle.

        At a crossing on Heaton Street, motorists often stop before gingerly driving over the three sets of tracks.

        “If you don't, you're not going to have a vehicle too long,” said Danny Bowling of Hamilton. “You know it's going to knock these front ends out of whack, it's got to.”

        At the Heaton crossing, the tracks themselves move as cars go over them. It's a crossing Mr. Samoviski said needs attention.

        But with no leverage to speak of, Mr. Sorrell says, he's as frustrated as drivers are over the situation.

        “(Drivers) are generally disgusted with the condition of the crossings because of the potential hazard and the potential damage to their vehicles,” he said.

        “Most people are very proud of the vehicles they drive. The citizens who drive these roads should expect a reasonable crossing at all times.”

       



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