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Crossing out the kinks


For motorists in Cornelius, rolling over the Fourth Street railroad crossing on the north side of Baseline Road may not be such a jarring experience much longer.by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Needs work: The Portland & Western Railroads Fourth Street crossing in Cornelius is in bad shape, but a fix is in the works. This summer, in a $198,000 project, the crossing and a section of the tracks that run through it will be rebuilt, with concrete pads being placed where the crumbling asphalt is now. A new sidewalk will be added as well.

Currently, the asphalt around the top of the rails at the Portland & Western Railroad crossing is crumbling, making for bumpy passage for cars and a rim-bending adventure for bicycles. Last week, however, the Cornelius City Council approved a contract that will see the aging crossing replaced with concrete panels, making for a much smoother ride.

There are two parts to the crossing reconstruction project. The first part calls for replacing the asphalt with concrete crossing panels and adding sidewalks. This portion of the work will be handled by Raines Excavating, a Gaston company.

When the asphalt at the crossing is taken up, the railroad will take the opportunity to repair the tracks through the crossing. The work on the rail line itself will be done by West Railroad Co. of Vancouver, Wash., a contractor hired by the railroad.

“Since someone will be doing work in and around the track, the railroad wants to be sure it is done correctly,” said City Manager Rob Drake.

The railroad is expected to replace the track for at least a few feet on either side of the intersection.

“The total costs will be shared between us and railroad. We’ll pay them for the track work when completed,” said Terry Keyes, city engineer.

The entire project is expected to cost approximately $198,000, with most of it being paid for by Wal-Mart, located just a couple blocks south of the Fourth Street crossing.

Drake said having a large-scale developer pay for certain transportation improvements in the immediate area of a development is fairly typical, and the crossing upgrade was listed among the requirements Wal-Mart agreed to in order to get its building permit from the city.

“Wal-Mart was required to help make multiple improvements because of traffic impacts, which is common for large retailers that generate higher traffic impacts,” said Drake. “Wal-Mart did not contest sharing in the cost of this fix, since increased outside traffic would cause more load on an old crossing.”

According to Drake, Wal-Mart paid a total of $150,000 for enhancements around Wal-Mart. The remaining $48,000 will come from the city’s street fund contingency.

Although Wal-Mart opened about two years ago, city officials said projects like this take time to put together.

“We’ve finally got everybody marching to the same tune,” said Keyes.

Work on the crossing is scheduled to get started early this summer, and the road is not expected to be closed to traffic while the project is under way.

“The Fourth Street crossing will be open most of the time and closed only for very brief periods,” Drake said.