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Hike in train speed disrupts Canton Main Street project

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CANTON - A last-minute design change by CSX Rail Inc. at its Route 11 rail crossing has created delays and extra costs for the state’s $9.55 million Main Street reconstruction project.

A decision by CSX to increase the train speed through the village from 25 mph to 40 mph disrupted design plans that were established several years ago, according to Michael R. Flick, a spokesman with the State Department of Transportation.

“It’s unfortunate,” Mr. Flick said. “You never get through a project without something you didn’t expect, but this one really caught us off guard.”

The higher speed limit impacts the slope of the curve at the crossing.

“The elevation of the curve is designed for a specific speed. We designed the highway there to match a 25 mph crossing,” Mr. Flick said. “We found out recently that it was changing to 40 mph, which changes the elevation and crossing slope.”

DOT Project Engineer Thomas A. Maroun said he met with CSX officials after he learned of the speed limit increase and before highway work started at the crossing.

He said he was assured that existing design plans didn’t need to be altered in response to the speed limit hike.

“They said everything would remain the same,” Mr. Maroun said.

However, when CSX crews installed the new crossing, they elevated the grade of the crossing to meet their design standards, Mr. Maroun said.

As a result, a short section of Route 11 approaching the crossing has to be elevated 17 inches while a section of Railroad Avenue has to be elevated by 30 inches, Mr. Maroun said.

Also, all of the new curbing that was installed there a few weeks ago had to be removed and re-installed because the slope of the highway has to be altered to match the CSX rail crossing.

Also, plans for storm drainage and paving has to be altered. Additional design and survey work is required so that the ehighway matches the elevation at the railroad crossing slope.

The highway elevation in front of adjacent driveways and fire hydrants has to be redesigned.

CSX Spokesman Robert T. Sullivan said in an email, “We are looking into the matter and will work with the state to resolve any issues.”

The DOT has to incur the extra costs, Mr. Flick said.

“We cross the railways’ right of way, they don’t cross ours,” he said. “Railroad law supercedes highway law.”

He said he couldn’t provide an estimate of the additional costs.

At Monday’s village board meeting, Village Superintendent Brien E. Hallahan said the extra cost to DOT will be in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“I have no reservation placing the criticism on CSX,” Mr. Hallahan told village trustees.

Meanwhile, some village trustees want to put pressure on CSX to retain the 25 mph speed limit.

Trustee Dan McDonnell resides on Pleasant Street and said he’s concerned about possible derailments.

The board asked its attorney, Gerald Ducharme, to research village code regarding train speed limits and determine if the village has any authority in enforcing a speed limit.

Mr. Maroun said he’s waiting for an updated schedule from the general contractor, Luck Bros Inc., Plattsburgh, to determine how the project proceeds. At this point, it’s still expected to finish by Nov. 30.

While work at the rail crossing is on hold, crews are continuing other work such as grading for new curbing and removing old sidewalks.

“The curb subcontrator is scheduled to come in soon to get everything done,” Mr. Maroun said.

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