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A plan to create alternative access to Kent's Kramer Ball Fields has fallen flat for the city's administration after inquiring with CSX Railroad.
Following a request from Kent City Council, City Engineer Jim Bowling and Service Director Gene Roberts contacted the railroad company to determine if temporary access could be granted to allow people to enter Kramer Ball Fields over the tracks from Mogadore Road.
The ball fields, which are surrounded by the Cuyahoga River and CSX Railroad tracks, have only one access point -- the Harvey Redmond Bridge, which will remain closed until a $1 million replacement project is complete in 2014.
In order for CSX to permit a new at-grade railroad crossing, the city would have to first show there is no reasonable alternative and then petition to the company for a new at-grade crossing. The community would have to be willing to close three existing at-grade crossings in exchange for a new crossing, City Manager Dave Ruller said on his blog, Kent360.com.
An at-grade crossing is when a road and train tracks intersect.
"In order to close three existing at-grade crossings, we'd have to either close city streets with railroad crossings on them or build new bridges over the tracks -- neither of which seem particularly viable," Ruller said, noting that the process doesn't guarantee the new crossing would even be granted. "It never hurts to ask but unfortunately this time we didn't get the answer we were hoping for."
Bowling said rail companies, not just CSX, have very strict policies for railroad crossings, and the city expected CSX to be resistant to allowing another access point.
"Any at-grade crossing is a liability from what I've heard, so they go to all extremes to remove them when possible and not to let more come back in there place," Bowling said. "We've had a long career with the railroad so we understand what their goals and objectives are."
The 64-year-old wood Harvey Redmond Bridge was closed in April 2011 after it shifted three-quarters of an inch. Officials feared that the rotting supports of the bridge posed a safety hazard to the public.
A $1.16 million bridge replacement project, funded mostly by a $980,000 federal grant, will occur at the end of this year and the ball fields are anticipated to reopen for the 2014 baseball season.
Construction was slated to begin in the summer of 2013, but the discovery of fresh water mollusks, an endangered species, near the bridge has forced a delay until the mollusk breeding season is over.
While access to the ball fields has been restricted, Kent Parks and Recreation has been able to maintain all baseball leagues using Kent State University facilities and the help of Stow and Ravenna.
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Maybe somebody could apply for a grant to study the problem.