State of railroad viaduct discussed

Supervisors field questions from local farmers

Two local farmers visited the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to see what could be done about wooden railroad viaduct in Section 16 of Independence Township.

Wayne Blue and son Tony Blue said the bridge is a hazard and an inconvenience for those moving farm equipment. The viaduct is located at the intersection of 250th Street and Kantor Avenue east of Briggs Woods Park. In 2001, according to an article in the Daily Freeman-Journal, the bridge was posted with a maximum limit of 10 tons. Today, the bridge is posted for a 3-ton maximum weight limit, according to County Engineer Nicole Stinn.

“That’s about the lowest you will see posted,” she said.

Stinn said at last count, approximately 25 vehicles cross the bridge daily. At the highest count in the 1990s, about 80 vehicles crossed on a daily basis. While cars and trucks are able to use the crossing, much of the farm equipment used by area farmers is too heavy to make the crossing.

“Farmers have to go around umpteen miles to avoid the intersection,” Wayne Blue said, adding the he was aware the matter had been discussed before and had seen plans for a potential at-grade crossing.

“I think we just need stop signs on either side of the railroad tracks. We don’t want traffic coming through there at 60 mph,” he said.

Stinn said she found that discussions about the rail crossing began back in the early 1960s.

“Around that time there was some correspondence about making two at-grade crossings but nothing really came of if,” she said. “It was pushed again in the late 1990s to 2000.”

She said the county was having a difficult time corresponding with the railroad to get approval.

“The railroad finally said in about 2005 that an at-grade crossing could be installed,” she said. “What it looks like to me, there was actually a project number designated to start moving forward with it.”

She said it appears that the project stalled as it was so cost prohibitive at the time due to the requirements set out by the railroad. The bridge and crossing are owned by the railroad.

“We estimated that it would be approximately $1 million to create an at-grade crossing,” she said.

Stinn said she didn’t disagree that the plans for the at-grade crossing appeared to be extravagant.

“But that is what the railroad requires. They require a 90-degree crossing and will accept up to an 80-degree crossing but won’t budge from that,” said Stinn. “They also require us to carry the railroad’s insurance to cover their flaggers.”

Supervisors Chairman David Young said that the railroad would dictate all of the terms of any project. He added that the county would have to purchase about 11 acres for right-of-way.

She said the county has chosen not to prioritize the bridge at this time and it is not on the five-year plan.

“But it will be something that I will continue to look at,” she said. “If there is a way that I can find special funding or safety grants, we will pursue it.”