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Construction detour permanent in Cornelius


Motorists in the city of Cornelius would be wise to get used to having to detour around 12th Avenue in the downtown area, because even after the current construction project is completed, the road is not going to be reopened to automobile traffic.by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - As part of the ongoing Baseline Street redevelopment project in downtown Cornelius, South 12th Avenue will be permanently closed to automobile traffic.

South 12th Avenue is currently blocked at the railroad tracks between Baseline Street and Alpine Street for crossing work and the removal of an unused passing track. But when the work is completed and the barricades are removed, the road will no longer be an option for motorists trying to turn south from Baseline.

“The rail crossing at South 12th Avenue is closed now for modification,” said Mark Crowell, director of the city’s Public Works Department. “Once this work is done, this crossing will only be a pedestrian crossing with no vehicular traffic. There will not be gates or lights or signals, probably just signage.”

Cornelius City Manager Rob Drake said 12th Avenue has been recommended for closure for many years.

“At 12th, the crossing is being removed as part of an agreement that was made over a decade ago,” Drake said. “Pedestrian and bike access will remain.”

With other crossings just two blocks away in either direction — 10th and 14th avenues also cross the tracks and will remain open to all traffic — the closure of 12th Avenue is a safety move based on how close one crossing is to another.

The 14th Avenue crossing was recently rebuilt with smooth concrete pads, and the 10th Avenue crossing, which currently is in very poor shape, is scheduled to be rebuilt later this year.

Further, safety at the 14th Avenue railroad crossing — which is now protected solely with a stop sign — is going to be vastly enhanced.

“The crossing at South 14th Avenue is still under way,” said Crowell. “It is currently open to traffic with a stop sign for both northbound and southbound. This will change in the next month or so, at which time a fully signalized track crossing with a gate, flashing lights and bells will replace the stop signs.”

Crowell explained that the crossing gates can be activated only when the traffic signals are functional at both Adair Street and Baseline Street, which are still being worked on. The Baseline project is expected to be completed by the end of summer.

City officials said the work along the railroad is part of the ongoing Baseline Street project, a $5.5 million renovation along Baseline through the Cornelius business district.

In addition to the improvements at the railroad crossings, the overall project includes the repaving of Baseline Street as well as new sidewalks, curbs, streetlamps and landscaping.

“It’s part of our downtown redevelopment for business development,” said Drake.

The rail line south of Baseline Street runs from Hillsboro to Seghers, just north of Gaston. The line is used by the Portland & Western Railroad on a daily basis to serve the Stimson Lumber mill near Hagg Lake.