Underpasses overdue for overhaul|Sandusky officials push railroads, state for more attention to rail bridges

SANDUSKY The underpasses that allow drivers to avoid stopping for trains on Hayes and Tiffin avenues are crumbling. In
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



The underpasses that allow drivers to avoid stopping for trains on Hayes and Tiffin avenues are crumbling.

Inspection reports reveal chipping, flaking, thinning and gaps among a variety of problems with the structures.

"I'm not a bridge expert, but the appearance doesn't look good," said Dave Waddington, Sandusky City Commissioner.

Railway bridges that cross over state and federal routes are inspected annually by the Ohio Department of Transportation, and inspections for all railway overpass and bridge structures are kept on file with the Public Utilities Commission.

ODOT inspects the structures to ensure overpasses like those spanning Ohio 4 (Hayes Avenue) and Ohio 6 (Tiffin Avenue) within Sandusky city limits are safe for traffic to travel beneath, said Brian Stacy, spokesman for ODOT District 3.

The two overpasses are deemed safe although the most recent bridge inspection reports show parts of the structures are deteriorating.

Waddington and Ex officio Mayor Dan Kaman have been removing litter and trash in the Hayes Avenue underpass and elsewhere in Sandusky and worry about the condition of the structures above.

"It's terrible," Waddington said, adding that the city has been trying to push the railroad to take better care of the overpasses. Waddington said his biggest concern is the children who walk to and from school through those areas.

Two bridges span Tiffin Avenue. One of the structures was built in 1955, while the other was built in 1951 and redone 1990.

The Tiffin Avenue overpass's general condition of the 1955 bridge is rated "poor." The inspection report noted cracking, flaking and crumbling concrete; heavy flaky rust; section loss; and thinning.

The structure built in 1951 and 1990 has portions in worse condition that are considered "serious." But parts of the structures are sound. The approaches for the bridge and deck of the structure are considered in "good" condition. The lower part of the structure, however, is considered "serious" with the upper part of the structure considered "fair."

The bridge spanning Hayes Avenue, built in 1931, earned a "poor" rating. The inspection report described a deck, upper and lower structures with small gaps, heavy flaky rust, severe section loss on some of the piers and deteriorated deck anchorage.

The report also indicated minor movement of parts of the upper structure when trains rumble over it.

Norfolk Southern Railroad owns the structures and is responsible for their maintenance and repair. The railroad has no plans to replace either of the bridges, but performs regular maintenance on them to keep the trains moving safely, spokesman Rudy Husband said.

"The bridges are inspected on a quarterly and annual basis, and the tracks on the bridges are inspected at least twice weekly," Husband said in an e-mailed statement. "The line segment (Cleveland-Chicago) is one of the most important routes on the entire 22-state NS network, and as such it is in our best interests to maintain the track and infrastructure to very high standards, which benefits not only our customers but the general public as well."