Saturday May 28th, 2016 6:17AM

Railroad officials ask to remove Hoyt Street bridge in Cornelia

By Rob Moore Reporter
CORNELIA - Cornelia officials are expressing concern over a request from Norfolk Southern Corp. to remove an overhead bridge on Hoyt Street.<br /> <br /> This week, City Manager Donald Anderson said removal of the bridge, which city officials have found is used by more than 300 vehicles per day, creates public safety response concerns.<br /> <br /> "Occasionally the railroad, for some reason, will block both crossings downtown for hours and when that happens it cuts us off from that side of the train tracks," Anderson said.<br /> <br /> The city's front-line fire truck, which runs many of the calls in the city, was damaged while trying to negotiate the underpass on Wells Street recently.<br /> <br /> "We really are not supposed to drive our fire trucks through the underpass," Anderson said. "In fact, we had a firefighter try to do that two weeks ago and caused about $5,000 worth of damage to the side of the truck, so it's not highly recommended that we do that."<br /> <br /> That's why city officials encourage firefighters to use other routes to reach the downtown side of the tracks when the Main Street and First Street crossings are blocked.<br /> <br /> "Hoyt Street is one of the avenues that we have of getting to the other side of the tracks in a fairly quick manner if we have something," Anderson said. <br /> <br /> Anderson said the other options include going south to Wayside Street or all the way to 441 Bypass in Baldwin, or going east to Chase Road.<br /> <br /> "Either way you go, you're adding a considerable amount of time to the response time for our public safety," Anderson said.<br /> <br /> A letter from E.L. Jackson, engineer for public improvements at Norfolk Southern, on July 21 states the bridge currently hinders efforts to replace and maintain the track structure beneath Hoyt Street due to the current horizontal and vertical clearances.<br /> <br /> "Norfolk Southern has met with city officials and made a request that they be allowed to remove the bridge on Hoyt Street that goes over the train tracks," Anderson said. "They're claiming that the height restriction of the bridge hampers their ability to properly maintain the tracks under it."<br /> <br /> Even though the railroad owns the bridge, it must seek approval from the city before closing or removing it. The current weight limit on the bridge is seven tons.<br /> <br /> "Fortunately, they can't just close the bridge without the city's permission, and the city commissioners decided it would be best to hold a public hearing on this matter at the September commission meeting," Anderson said. "We just think it would be a burden on our citizens if we were to just carte blanche close or take the bridge down without getting their input."<br /> <br /> Anderson isn't sure what might happen if the city declines to allow the railroad to close the bridge.<br /> <br /> "I guess the only alternate - they haven't mentioned this, but the only alternate if the city says no would be for them to build another bridge, which would be in the neighborhood of about $15 million," Anderson said.
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