City threatens lawsuit against CSX

August 13, 1997


Staff Writer

Hagerstown officials said Tuesday the city would sue CSX Corp. and the Maryland Department of Transportation if two rough railroad crossings aren't repaired promptly.

City officials have been trying to get CSX and the state to fix railroad crossings at Northern Avenue and Park Lane for several years, to no avail. The state is responsible for maintenance of the crossings, which CSX owns.

"Everything else is a joke. I think we need to file suit and I think we need to file suit immediately," said Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, a local attorney.


Metzner said the suit should be filed in Washington County Circuit Court. City officials need a judge who has a child attending Northern Middle School and has to cross the Northern Avenue tracks every day, he said.

City Attorney William Nairn said he would send letters to CSX and the state department stating that if he didn't have assurances the work would be done promptly and given a detailed plan, the city would file suit in 10 days.

Nairn said the city would ask a judge to issue a court order for the repair work to be done at the two railroad crossings.

CSX and Maryland Department of Transportation officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

In July, Robert Herstein with the Maryland State Highway Administration said the earliest the Northern Avenue crossing would be replaced is next July and that no major work was scheduled for Park Lane.

At the same time, CSX's regional vice president for state relations, Stephen Thienel, had said maintenance work had been scheduled for the Northern Avenue crossing, but wasn't sure if it had been done.

The matter came up at the end of the mayor and council's Tuesday afternoon work session when Councilman William M. Breichner suggested closing the Park Lane crossing and putting up a detour.

When cars cross too fast, the boards jump up, Breichner said after the meeting.

Metzner said city officials shouldn't kid themselves by continuing to ask CSX and the state to fix the problem without taking legal action.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said she would prefer city officials not resort to legal action yet. Instead, she wants the public to pressure the governor's office to have the crossings fixed.

City officials had considered posting signs by the crossings with the names and phone numbers of CSX and state transportation officials so drivers would know who to call to complain. Instead, signs were installed telling drivers to use caution because of the rough crossings.

"Who's kidding whom? You're talking about CSX, Susan. Since when did they care about the governor and the state of Maryland?" Metzner asked.

CSX is the same corporation that won't allow trains to Pen Mar or from Cumberland to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, he said.

"They're certainly not civic minded and never have been," Metzner said.

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