Railroad crossing is on the way out

Published September 10, 2006

Several reader inquiries about the sad state of the railroad crossing on 28th Street S north of Interstate 275 and south of Fairfield Drive brought a prompt answer from Michael Frederick, the city's manager of Neighborhood Transportation and Parking.

One reader wrote, in part, "The railroad tracks are gone but the crossing gates are still there. Are they going to replace the tracks or take down the crossing gates?"

Frederick responded via e-mail: "The city is currently conducting preliminary design of the Pinellas Trail Extension from where it currently terminates at 34th Street to Downtown. Construction is expected to start by the fall of 2007. The removal of the existing track and hardware will be one of the first tasks in the project, and this will include restoration of all roadway crossings."

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Speaking of bone-jarring railroad crossings, another mess is the CSX crossing on Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park, where rubber grade panels have deteriorated significantly in the westbound lane, making for a particularity rough ride for folks who travel Park everyday.

Pinellas Park officials say the problem is complicated because it involves coordinating with the city, the Florida Department of Transportation and the railroad.

According to Pinellas Park records, the DOT told Scott Pinheiro, Pinellas Park's director of Engineering Services Division, in April that temporary repairs would take place in June. However, no work has started yet.

Pinheiro sent an e-mail to the DOT last month requesting that action be taken.

"I drove the westbound center lane of Park Boulevard today at the posted speed of 45 mph and it appears that the rubber grade crossing is getting worse and separating. I feel that if a vehicle is traveling westbound at this location, it may cause a vehicle to shift over to an adjacent lane," Pinheiro wrote.

James A. Andrews, the district railroad administrator for the DOT, replied via e-mail last week that an order for temporary repairs to the railroad crossing were sent to CSX on Sept 1.

"This project will consist of removing the rubber panels and replacing with asphalt. We are currently working with CSX on a schedule for the work," Andrews wrote.

Once repair work begins, westbound traffic will be detoured to share the eastbound lanes and the opposite detour will occur when the eastbound crossing is repaired.

Unfortunately, motorists will have to be content with a temporary fix.

In an April e-mail to Pinheiro, Andrews said, "The permanent replacement of the whole crossing will be several years from now."

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Also on the complaint line: An alarmed reader noting that the view on 38th Avenue N at the I-275 northbound access is obstructed by trees recently planted in the median.

John Simpson, the DOT's district landscape architect, said he is aware of the project, which he described in a memo as a "beautification project funded by the department DOT and constructed by the city. It represents a legitimate concern."

Simpson's opinion is that maintaining a clear sight line is a matter of keeping the trees well-pruned.

The city is required by a maintenance agreement to prune parts of plants that may present a visibility hazard. Officials assured us that the city's road landscape maintenance department will include the median in routine landscape maintenance.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

Please share your traffic concerns, comments and questions with Dr. Delay via e-mail at docdelay@yahoo.com.