MOORESVILLE – At the request of the Town of Mooresville, the North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Division, in conjunction with the Norfolk Southern Railway, conducted a study to determine the need for improvements or elimination of public crossings to promote safety and mobility for motorists, rail passengers and train crews. The study will evaluate 28 at-grade highway and railroad crossings along the Norfolk Southern “O” Line from Bridges Farm Road to Mazeppa Road.
These studies are one of the comprehensive programs to improve rail-crossing safety administered by NCDOT, the federal highway administration (FHWA) and the federal railroad administration (FRA). A public meeting was held on Monday, March 27 inviting community members to give insight on how the railroad highway crossings are used and to offer comments and concerns about its existing conditions.
“We haven’t laid out any specific improvements because tonight’s meeting is just about a general consensus of the concerns of the public,” said Nancy Horne, project engineer at NCDOT. “There will be a 30-day comment period where this will allow us to better prepare and make more-informed decisions.”
In 2004, NCDOT evaluated 13 grade crossings (a place where a railroad and a road, or two railroad lines, cross at the same level) of the “O” Line in the Charlotte to Mooresville Traffic Separation Study. At the time, no further action was taken. Since the earlier evaluation, many local plans and development changes have occurred, according to NCDOT. This includes the Mooresville Comprehensive Transportation Plan in 2008. This, combined with increased rail and vehicle traffic, is the reason that the study team is again looking at options for separating railroad and highway traffic.
This is the first time the town, NCDOT and Norfolk Southern Railway will be working together to determine the best outcome for road infrastructure. The efforts of all three are needed, Horne said. But some residents are concerned with the role of NSR.
“Never should there be a time where for-profit (organizations) trump local and state government (decisions),” a concerned resident of Mooresville, who attended the event, said.
The improvements may include crossing closures and consolidations or adding or upgrading warning measures to existing highway/railroad at-grade crossings.
“There has been a definite increase in growth in the area,” Horne said. “And Mooresville wanted to see what we can do. Tonight’s been very encouraging in that the public is coming out to see what’s going on, and really their input is very important to us when we start making recommendations.”
The Mooresville TSS crossings will be evaluated on the following roads: Bridges Farm Road, Langtree Road, Fairview Road, Crossrail Road, Waterlynn Road, Foursquare Road, Timber Road, Norman Drive, Doster Avenue, Brawley, West Mills, Wilson, Catawba, McClelland, Moore, Iredell, Patterson, Statesville Avenue, Center Street, Walnut Street, Plaza Drive, Whitman Circle and Mazeppa Road, among others.
The town also completed an alignment study for the proposed East-West Connector in 2010. The E-W Connector is a proposed roadway connecting Langtree Road and N.C. 115 that would cross the Norfolk Southern rail line next to N.C. 115. A part of that study was to identify road crossings that could be eliminated or combined based on things like traffic volumes or safety issues. The E-W Connector project did not move forward at that time, so no changes were made to existing rail crossings.
“The current Rail Separation Study scope is broader than the 2010 East-West Connector Alignment Study,” said Allison Kraft, engineering services director for the town. “This will provide more recommendations than just closures – for example safer pedestrian options at the railroad tracks downtown or improved crossings on the northern end of town. Once this study is completed and adopted by NCDOT, the town hopes to partner with NCDOT to secure funding for recommended improvements.”