Ask ELi: Why Are Two Railroad Crossings Closed at Once?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016, 4:30 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

Image: Traffic this morning where Farm Lane goes under the CN railroad tracks.

A reader asks: “Who authorized CSX, the train people, to close both [crossings at] Hagadorn and Harrison at the same time? The traffic through campus is a total nightmare. That's [currently] the only north-south route people can take through town. I know the roads passing over the train tracks have to be fixed, but who decided they could fix them both at the same time?”

The answer: The tracks are actually Canadian Northern (CN) railway tracks, and it’s happened like this because CN wants the two crossings fixed and summer is when road construction usually happens around here.

Patrick Waldron, CN Public Affairs staff, responded to my inquiry about the situation by explaining, "The road closures and detour routes to accommodate the rail crossing surface repair work were arranged in coordination with the various road authorities to minimize the disruption and coordinate with other construction in the area. These crossing repairs are large projects with multiple tracks, roads and sidewalks at each location."

In fact, railroads have the right to do pretty much what they want in terms of repair work; that’s why the area including their tracks is called a “right-of-way.” Combine that with the fact that Michigan is known for having four real seasons—Fall, Winter, Spring, and Construction—and what you get are two crossings closed at once and a whole lot of traffic in between.

According to Steven Roach, Design Engineer for the City of East Lansing, the City heard about these two closings separately. Roach says the City heard first from Ingham County. About three weeks ago, the County let the City know their road crews would be “working with the railroad on their request to replace the crossing on Hagadorn.” Then, a few days later “the City received notice from the railroad of including the repairs to the Harrison crossing within the same time frame of the Hagadorn work.”

This meant the only way through, north to south, was the Farm Lane underpass. That, Roach says, meant MSU had to approve the detours “prior to any approval from the City.” MSU did give permission, and now Farm Lane is pretty backed up, especially around morning and evening rush.

Roach explains, “Given the time of year with students away from campus, there really wasn't a better window to perform the work and to be completed before August prior to students coming back. Though an inconvenience for a few weeks, work should be wrapping up next week.”

CN's representative Waldron also confirms the end in sight: "The project began July 5 and is scheduled to run to July 22."

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