Railroad crossing changes proposed
By Jessie Burchette
Elected officials, business owners and many others are wary of proposed changes in railroad crossings to be unveiled Thursday evening.
Upgrading the crossings is part of the overall plan to accommodate high-speed trains. The Rail Division of the N.C. Department of Transportation has already announced plans to restore a second set of tracks.
Officials have applied for federal stimulus money to carry out the improvements.
Reid Linn, Landis town manager, said town officials have tremendous concerns about what will happen to Landis and southern Rowan.
“It could bring tremendous change in Landis, China Grove and Kannapolis,” Linn said earlier this week.
Don Bringle, mayor of China Grove, has equal concerns. If the Rail Division of the N.C. Department of Transportation opts to do a grade separation at a downtown crossing, Bringle said it could virtually destroy the downtown.
Elected officials will get a first look at proposals for closing or otherwise improving 15 crossings at a 3:30 p.m. session Thursday at the China Grove Community Memorial Building, 412 S. Myrtle St.
Following that session, a public information session will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Community Building.
The crossings on the state list include 18th Street, 22nd Street and 29th Street, all in Kannapolis; East Mill Street, Ryder Street and Central Avenue in Landis; Eudy Road, Thom Street, Centerview Street and Church Street in China Grove; Mount Hope Church Road, Webb Road, Peeler Road, Peach Orchard Road and Reid Farm private crossing between China Grove and south Salisbury.
Bringle said he has no idea what the Rail Division has in mind for China Grove. He noted previously officials have called the Centerview crossing the “most challenging.”
Referring to the dependence on stimulus money, Bringle said, ” It could be a lot of hype over nothing.”
In Landis, Linn said officials are determined to keep the Ryder Avenue crossing open. He said it’s essential to provide services, particularly emergency police response, equally to both sides of town.
Landis is also supporting an extension of Kimball Road to U.S. 29 with an overpass or underpass.
Area fire departments and county emergency officials are also keeping an eye on the possible closing of crossings.
Frank Thomason, county emergency services director, said the impact on EMS and other services will depend on which crossings they close.
Thomason said he plans to attend the Thursday session.
Last month, state officials laid out plans for the crossings.
Marc Hamel with the Rail Division said planners are looking at locations for grade separations ó either a bridge over the tracks or trenching under the tracks.
“If we build a bridge at one location, we could close crossings nearby,” Hamel said.
Topography and nearby development will be factors, along with the traffic count at each crossing.
Other options include upgrading with crossing arm systems that will prevent drivers from getting on the tracks.
State officials held a public information session in July on the restoration of the second set of tracks which were removed in the 1960s or ’70s as rail traffic decreased.
A second session on the track restoration is expected to be held in December to lay out detailed plans on how property owners along the track will be impacted.