Carroll Co. railroad crossing to be smoothed with 'tubs'

February 17, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Motorists complaining about a bumpy railroad crossing in downtown Westminster should find smoother driving this year -- on concrete "tubs" that have been used in the West for years.

The work at the crossing on Railroad Avenue, just east of Main Street, will be done by Maryland Midland Railway Co. Inc. of Union Bridge.

The job probably will be done in late summer or early fall, and could be finished in a weekend.

"They're going to tear out what's there, and it will be all new stuff: precast concrete panels," said Robert J. Herstein, the State Highway Administration's team leader of statewide studies -- a sort of catchall department that includes railroad crossings.

"They level the ground, lay these panels down, and put the rails on -- the rail just slips into the side of the panel -- and that's pretty much it. No ties, no screws."

The cost, which he estimated at $400,000, will be reimbursed by the state almost entirely from federal transportation money designated to improve railroad crossings.

Maryland Midland began using the molded-concrete slabs -- called tubs -- about 3 1/2 years ago, said Wayne E. Weszka, general manager of operations and maintenance. "And we've been using them ever since.

"These tubs are doing a real good job for us. They're not settling at all," he said. "We were one of the first ones. We're just little, so we pretty much started doing it on the East Coast."

The company has used the tubs at four other crossings in Carroll and Frederick counties, he said, and found they are stable and have held up well, despite initial concern that the amount of salt used on state roads during the winter might affect the concrete.

He said the Railroad Avenue job might take more time than usual because it is longer -- at almost 200 feet -- than the others.

"A lot of people have been complaining about it being fairly rough there," Herstein said. "We'll also be looking at new signals there, both traffic and railroad signals. Now, you could have flashing red lights behind you and a solid red light ahead. It could be confusing."

New gates and signals are planned for about the same time at two crossings on Route 30 at Hampstead, he said, but not a new rail bed.

Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works, said, "We have been bombarded about the rail crossing on Main Street, the long crossing and the condition. They want to know why we're not moving to fix it."

A lot of complaints have been made about the Railroad Avenue crossing, Weszka agreed, but no reported accidents involving the railroad -- probably because traffic has to come to a complete stop.

Maryland Midland was incorporated in 1978 and owns about 65 miles of track from Glyndon in Baltimore County to Highfield in Washington County, along the main line of the old Western Maryland Railway.

Pub Date: 2/17/97

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