SALEM-Motorists who live or work in Salem will need to find an alternate route if they cross the railroad tracks since all crossings in the city will be closed Sept. 2 for most of the day due to a rail replacement project.
Anyone who uses the crossings at South Lincoln Avenue and Pershing Street will have to find a different way for a lot longer, with both of those crossings closed from Sept. 2 to Sept. 15.
City Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst received the call he said he's been dreading on Thursday from RoadSafe, the traffic control company for Norfolk Southern, notifying him early this time about the crossing closures.
Crossings in the Salem area affected on Sept. 2 stretch from Allen Road to Cunningham Road.
Last month, all of the crossings in the city were closed at the same time with no notification, leading to some angry phone calls to city hall. Since then, Kenst has been in communication with the railroad and the traffic control company to ensure enough notice to let people know what's happening.
"We're going to try to get the word out every possible way," he said.
Just after getting the phone call, he was on the phone with Fresh Mark personnel to notify them of the closing. He planned to notify all of the major employers in the city, all the ambulance companies, Perry Township officials, and emergency crews so they're aware.
Besides using newspapers, he planned to notify the television news stations, place information on the city's website at www.cityofsalemohio.org and assumed the police department would put something on the police Facebook page.
As for detours, he said the main route will be the overpass on West State Street. Trucks should already be using the bypass around town, but detour signs will be posted.
"I figure most people are going to find their own way," Kenst said.
He suggested people plan well ahead for Sept. 2 because he's expecting the traffic over the bridge will be extremely busy. With the bridge closing next summer for redecking, he said this will be practice for the traffic congestion expected then. He's just glad the city was notified ahead of time.
"We know it's going to be an inconvenience. There's nothing the city can do about it except make plans to work around it for the time period," he said.
Mayor John Berlin stressed that it's not anyone at city hall making these decisions, referring to what he called "the last fiasco" when the city received no notice.
"We're really at the mercy of the railroad," he said.
If there's a silver lining in the situation at all, Berlin said the work the railroad company is doing will probably help to prevent a derailment.
When asked why they have to have all the railroad crossings closed at the same time, Kenst explained that they're attaching the new tracks and picking up the old ones and the piece of machinery used to do that is 1 1/4-miles long. He said the equipment is a section of train.
"We understand this is an imposition on your community and appreciate your understanding we need to do this work to maintain a safe railroad. We also appreciate your understanding that sometimes we must adjust our plans at the last minute due to unanticipated events," William Harris of Norfolk Southern wrote in an email to Kenst earlier this month.