Eaton considering closing railroad crossings

By Kelsey Kimbler -

EATON — The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) and Norfolk Southern (NS) are once again asking the City of Eaton to close three railroad crossings.

Every few years ORDC makes an offer to the city to close some of the crossings in town. The last serious discussion was in 2015. Executive Director Matthew R. Dietrich sent a letter that indicated that the city’s administration had met with representatives of ORDC and NS concerning railroad safety. ORDC is the agency responsible for the expenditure of federal funds on railroad grade crossing safety in Ohio.

As the City of Eaton has 17 crossings in town, Dietrich argued that each one increases the likelihood of a collision. The letter continues to offer incentives for the closing of crossings. The money obtained from closing the crossings could be used for barricading the roadways at the crossings or other highway safety improvements approved by the ORDC, according to Dietrich.

After discussions, Eaton City Council decided, back in 2015, they could be interested in closing the alley crossing behind Red Mule and possibly Monfort Street, but that decision would need more discussion.

Dietrich sent another letter, dated May 31 of this year. He wrote, “Our goal is to work jointly and develop a condensed, state of the art corridor with as few grade crossings as possible. The City of Eaton has 17 public at-grade crossings in a rail corridor that is less than three miles in length. Sixteen of these crossings are concentrated in the heart of the community in a one and a half mile segment of rail. Grade crossings are inherently hazardous. The consolidation of redundant crossings has been a challenge undertaken by the federal and state government for decades.”

He continued to state that numerous meetings have been held, but no action plan has been devised. He believes that safety enhancements can only be obtained if the city agrees to close a minimum of three crossings.

The ones suggested included:

•The alley crossing behind the Red Mule.

•Either the crossing at McCabe Street or the crossing at Cherry Street.

•Either the crossing at Monfort Street or Walnut Street.

The topic was discussed during council’s meeting on Monday, June 19. Mayor Dave Kirsch said, “I know back when we were talking to these people in 2015, I thought it was the most ridiculous waste of time to talk to these people.” He continued, he feels ORDC will eventually force the closing of the crossings.

Council discussed the issue and the fact they did not feel like the ORDC was offering them enough money, that the city would be strapped monetarily by closing the crossings.

Council resolved to further discuss the issue during the July meeting, which was to be held on Monday, July 17.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH