The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

July 11, 2013

Railroad officials want to close 25th Avenue North crossing

By Katie Dahlstrom
Assistant Editor

CLINTON — Canadian Pacific Railroad wants to close the railroad crossing at 25th Avenue North, but city officials aren’t ready to green light the closure.

During the Clinton City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night, Dan Sabatka, Canadian Pacific’s director of engineering works for the Eastern United States, said the move to close the crossing is part of the company’s safety initiative to close at-grade crossings.  

Without the input of the Lyons Business and Professional Association, Clinton Regional Development Corp., Sawmill Museum and area property owners, City Council members didn’t feel comfortable deciding and kicked the item to the City Services Committee for more discussion.

“I don’t know if we’ve taken any time to really study how it affects our boat ramp up there that we’ve just stuck a quarter million dollars into and the Lyons business people are trying to develop that area and I think we should have an opportunity to discuss that before we just nix an intersection for them,” Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman said.

Sabatka explained the crux of their visit to the council was to lay the groundwork for the project, not to receive immediate approval.

The closure would reduce the risk of train and and vehicle accidents, he said. The 25th Avenue North crossing has signs warning drivers of the tracks, but not gates and lights such as the crossing on Main Avenue.

“When we can close a crossing that just has passive protection and route vehicle traffic to a crossing with the active protection of those lights and gates, it’s a huge improvement safety-wise. And so it seemed like a prime candidate for that closure or consolidation,” Sabatka said.

Sawmill Museum Treasurer Ron Kircher said the closure would be detrimental and inhibit future development in the area. He specifically referred to a parcel of land north of the museum that has potential for projects.  

“We recommend to the council at this time that this would not be in the best interest of the (Lyons Business and Professional Association) and the Sawmill Museum,” Kircher said.  

The closure would entail making 25th Avenue North a dead end at the tracks by erecting barricades. Canadian could create a turnaround and possibly give access to the parcel of property adjacent to the tracks that Kircher raised concerns about.  

The 25th Avenue North boat ramp would be accessible from Grant Street. If the intersection were to be blocked off, the bike trail in the area would need to be maintained and upgraded with ADA-compliant concrete pedestrian crossing.

The Iowa DOT supports at-grade crossing closures and has up to $7,500 in available funding for the closures, which Canadian Pacific could match, potentially giving the city $15,000 for work related to the closure.  

At-large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf felt the decision would take several months to make.  

“There are many entities that really need to be involved in this conversation, including the Lyons Business and Professional group. We’ve just entered into a big study on improvements at the north end and to divert that attention by stopping it midstream and accommodating a request at this early juncture I think is pretty premature,” Graf said.

Canadian Pacific has closed the intersection temporarily because of work. City Engineer Jason Craft recommended it be reopened as soon as possible while the city officials discuss the closure.