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Northern Avenue to be closed as railroad crossing is fixed

July 19, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

After several delays the deteriorated railroad crossing at Northern Avenue will be replaced in early August, requiring the road to be closed to through traffic for at least four days, officials said.

Hagerstown elected and engineering officials have for several years asked CSX and the state to upgrade the crossing because the wooden ties along the crossing raise up when cars travel over them.

The road will close at 7 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 2, city officials said. CSX crews expect to reopen the road during the afternoon or evening of Thursday, Aug. 5.

Access will be maintained for local residences and businesses, but emergency vehicles will not be able to get through the work zone.

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Community Rescue Service Chief Chris Amos said the road closing may add some time to ambulance runs to that area, but he doesn't anticipate service problems.

The rescue service usually sends an ambulance from its main station on Eastern Boulevard to emergency calls on the east side of the tracks, Amos said. An ambulance from the service's substation at Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Co. responds to calls on the west side of the tracks.

A fire truck from Hagerstown Fire Department or Longmeadow Volunteer Fire Department also responds to calls with the ambulance company, Amos said.

The Hagerstown Fire Department sends trucks from both sides of Northern Avenue in case there is a train coming, said Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker.

Northern Avenue is a major traffic artery with 13,000 to 14,000 cars traveling the road each day, City Engineer Bruce Johnston said.

Johnston said fliers were handed out to businesses along Northern Avenue last Thursday to make them aware of the road closing.

A detour will be set up for motorists using Pennsylvania Avenue, North Prospect Avenue and Oak Hill Avenue, Johnston said.

Johnston said the detour is a long way around, but CSX officials convinced city officials the road needs to be closed.

Since the rail is the width of the road, CSX crews must shut down all four lanes, Johnston said.

City officials had threatened in August 1997 to sue the railroad and the Maryland Department of Transportation if rough crossings at Northern Avenue and Park Lane were not repaired promptly.

At the time, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said city officials would hold off on suing CSX and the state, but would consider filing a lawsuit if the work didn't get done.

Zimmerman said Friday that if the Northern Avenue crossing is completely repaired, the city would be satisfied.

The Park Lane crossing was repaired in the fall of 1997, but work on Northern Avenue has been delayed several times. In December 1997 CSX did a temporary fix on Northern Avenue, removing an unused track and fixing rough pavement.

The $195,270 project ran into delays because of design and legal issues, said Robert Herstein, of the Maryland State Highway Administration's Office of Traffic and Safety.

The upgrade will include a concrete crossing, new flashing lights and a cantilever. The state, which is responsible for maintenance of the crossings, is paying for the project.

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