On Sept. 17, work will begin on reconstruction of the railroad crossing on Route 56 (North London Street) at the north end of Mount Sterling.
The project has been a long time coming, according to Mayor Rob Roy, who said he first contacted the Indiana & Ohio Railroad six years ago to tell them the crossing was getting rough.
Loose rail ties at the crossing have caused damage to motorists’ tires, front ends, and mufflers.
“About a year-and-a-half ago, one of the big timbers jumped up. If it had happened five seconds earlier, I don’t know what might have happened to a guy who was coming through on a motorcycle. We had to block traffic for four hours before they came and cobbled it back together,” Roy said.
Upkeep of the crossing is the responsibility of the railroad company. Over the years, Mount Sterling village officials have made repeated calls to the company about needed repairs, to no avail, Roy said.
In recent months, officials from the county, state and federal levels have gone to bat for the village. Their efforts, coupled with local officials and citizens who have registered complaints with the railroad, have finally yielded results.
On Aug. 29, State Rep. Chris Widener announced that the Ohio Rail Development Commission has given the Indiana & Ohio Railroad the authority to hire Atlas Railroad Construction as the contractor on the reconstruction project. Atlas will do the work for $169,840. The village will incur no costs.
“I am glad the Ohio Rail Development Commission and the Indiana & Ohio Rail-road found the best and most affordable company to handle the reconstruction project,” Widener said. “When completed, I am confident that drivers will appreciate the renovated intersection.”
Atlas will tear out both sets of tracks at the crossing and replace them with one set of new tracks, including new concrete runners and blacktop. One set of the old tracks will be relocated to the area near Royster-Clark to help the company with loading rail cars. The other set of old tracks will go back into the railroad’s inventory.
During the construction, which is slated to take seven to 10 days, detours will be posted. Joe Johnson, Mount Sterling’s street superintendent, said he and representatives of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will post signs to detour tractor-trailers and heavy trucks onto other state routes. Local traffic will be rerouted to High Street via Houston Street and Second Avenue, on which parking will be prohibited while work takes place.
“I want to thank Mount Sterling residents and people coming through town in advance for their patience,” Johnson said of the detours. “I know this is a busy time of year for farmers, and it’s the same week as the Farm Science Review. But it’s a good thing; it needs to get done.”
Dusty Parker, Mount Sterling’s village administrator, credited several people for bringing attention to the project.
“It wasn’t only one person. It was a combination. Everybody on our side has worked diligently,” he said.
In addition to Widener, Johnson and the mayor, Parker said Mount Sterling council members, Madison County Prosecutor Steve Pronai, County Engineer Dave Brand, U.S. Congresswoman Deborah Pryce’s office, and local and district ODOT representatives are among those who pitched in to get the project going.