YOUNGSTOWN New rail crossings should ease frustration

Prefabricated concrete slabs that are level with the street will replace four bumpy railroad crossings.
The tractor-trailer bed heaves up and then falls as the truck wheels cross the railroad tracks at Midlothian and Southern boulevards.
A small Chevy pickup slows to a crawl to minimize the bounce over the tracks; a Mercedes comes to a near stop to avoid any damage.
One more day of inconvenience, today, to close and replace the crossing should alleviate years of driver frustration.
Work started Friday evening on replacing the first of four -- and the busiest -- rail crossings in the city that needed improvement.
The Midlothian crossing gets an average of 18,000 vehicles a day.
The road will reopen by 7 a.m. Sunday.
The three other crossings that will be replaced are on Indianola, Powersdale and Poland avenues.
All will be completed by year's end.
Prefabricated concrete slabs that are level with the street replace the old crossings.
People have complained for years about losing mufflers, ball joints and even axles when crossing the Midlothian and Indianola tracks, said Councilman James E. Fortune Sr., D-6th.
"It was terrible," he said.
Smoothing the crossing
Fortune praised the rail line's owner, the Central Columbiana and Pennsylvania Railway, for its response. The company did temporary blacktop work to smooth the path, but replacement was needed.
In all, $500,000 will be spent before year's end on new crossings and signals at the four locations, said Tim Robbins, president of the Central Columbiana and Pennsylvania. Ohio Track of Austintown is doing the work.
The federal government is paying for the signals and 80 percent of the crossing replacements, Robbins said. The railway is paying for the rest.
This is the second week a train ran daily, he said. By mid-August, a train should run both ways each day, five days a week.
The 36-mile railway between Youngstown and Darlington, Pa., had its first test run in May 2001 and has been used periodically since.
The city is studying another five rail crossings in the city, said Carmen Conglose Jr., deputy director of public works.
The city expects to close three of them with the least amount of traffic, he said. The risks and costs aren't worth the small amount of traffic, he said.

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