Officials, Residents Meet With CSX Officials
According to West Virginia Department of Transportation’s Assistant District Engineer of Bridges, Daniel Sikora, New Martinsville’s Brooklyn/Main Street Bridge project might reach completion by the end of August.
The commission stated at their Aug. 12 meeting that they have had two conversations recently with the Department of Transportation regarding the status of the project. During a conversation last week, the commission was notified that water was seeping up through the coffer dams that had been built around the bridge’s piers. Last week, Velotta was looking into possible solutions to this problem, including membrane liners to seal off the water. However, Velotta had also expressed the possibility of using divers as well, which appears to be the solution they have gone with this week.
Wetzel County Commission President Bob Gorby stated that Velotta has used divers before with some of their projects. The divers used for the bridge project are from Enviroscience, from Ohio.
The commissioners stated that any penalty fees Velotta would be charged for going past the expected Aug. 15 completion date would go to the state, since it is paying for the majority of the project. Furthermore, Commission Vice President Larry Lemon stated that the state would take care of any issues with possible expiration of permits and waivers.
In another bridge-related matter, a meeting was held at New Martinsville City Building on Aug. 5 among Randy Cheetham (Regional Vice President) and Jason Bishop (Manager of Community Affairs and Safety) of CSX, several New Martinsville officials, and residents of the Brooklyn-area of New Martinsville to discuss CSX’s repair of railroad crossings in New Martinsville. Two of these crossings are currently western Brooklyn-area residents’ only way out of of their community.
“I’d like to communicate with you, on a friendly basis,” Brooklyn-area resident Kristi Gieseke stated to Cheetham and Bishop. “We are trapped in that Brooklyn area, and we only have two ways to get out of the area. We will take that, but those are the only ways we have of getting out of our little community,” she stated, stressing the importance of repairing the crossings.
“We have to drive across those ones, Foundry and Commercial . . . We thought that the city should make (the repair of those) a priority,” she stated, referencing a letter the city had sent to CSX recently concerning the repair of crossings. The specific letter apparently did not mention Foundry and Commercial.
Of the Foundry and Commercial crossings, Gieseke stated, “I hope you understand that’s a high priority, and we hope it comes as a high priority to with you.”
“I’m very familiar with that since the bridge was taken out of service,” Cheetham stated. “Despite what some people in this room may think, we have tried to be good neighbors. We have set up a window in the morning and afternoon to allow for the school buses. That involved us totally rescheduling our crews.”
“The buses decided not to even come across the tracks,” Gieseke noted.
As to repairing the crossings, Cheetham stated that CSX did get the letter from the city, and “I passed it on to Jason, and we’ll be happy to follow up and find out what is planned for those crossings.” Cheetham stated that if a track panel is sitting by one of the crossings, as one Brooklyn resident had noted, “then it’s probably in preparation to be going in.”
“I understand that the gravel area to the west of the tracks is owned by CSX,” Gieseke remarked. “So there’s a little short area we’d have to drive on to get to the Foundry Street crossing. We were told by the city that that is not their property. They can’t maintain the gravel road, but we are forced to drive on that . . . We need to drive across the CSX property to get across the Foundry Street crossing. If that is going to be a road we have to drive on, we would like to see that piece of property paved.”
Cheetham stated he would have to speak with a different maintenance-oriented department concerning paving, but he could guarantee that there had been no money set aside for such paving.
“This would show a way of trying to work with the folks,” New Martinsville Councilman Steve Pallisco noted.
“I’m just saying that nobody has programmed any money into the project to do that. It’s certainly something we can go back and talk to them about. There could be a possibility.
New Martinsville Recorder Bonnie Shannon noted that she had spoken to CSX about Locust Street and Virginia Street crossings and “the ski jumps that they are. We need to take a look at that, North Street, and I think that is it.”
One Brooklyn resident noted that CSX “needs to live in our lives for a week . . . There are holes and major holes.”
“I’m not offering excuses,” Cheetham stated, “but we have had a pretty rough winter with a lot of freeze and thaw. Jason can get with the roadmaster and see what the plan is.”
“How do you suggest to be good neighbors?” Shannon asked. “The homes that are so close to the railroad, it’s basic pollution and grime and dirt and dust, and it’s 100 years old, and it seems like it permeates, and the noise level is absolutely phenomenal, and it can be 24 hours a day.”
“We are a 24/7 operation, and when the cars come in, they’ve got to be classified. You want our cars in the yard moving around,” Cheetham stated.
“They aren’t,” Stackpole noted. “They are right outside my window.”
She continued, “I feel like, when there’s been meetings, we are going to be all good and work on this together. Then I feel like when we get home, we are punched. We get home and the horns never stop, and they go all the way through . . . I feel like we get punished, and we tend to our own business in Brooklyn. We feel like we need someone to help us on both sides. We feel like we are being ignored, and we are stuck.”
Of the horn-blowing, Gieseke noted: “Some conductors do it politely. Some are quiet and considerate, and some, I don’t know what they are thinking.”
“I can tell you it might be from experience,” Bishop noted. “They’ve all had different experiences. If they’ve ever hit someone at a crossing, a train can’t swerve or stop quickly . . .”
“They aren’t moving that fast,” Gieseke stated.
“Is there any way you can tell the conductors to not blow the horn as loud?” Councilman Jeremy Shepherd asked.
“The person that sounds the horn is the locomotive engineer,” Bishop noted. “There’s no way we can define short and long.” He stated the ruling is from the federal government.
“But if there is wiggle room, these engineers can be compassionate,” Pallisco noted. “It would be good if they could be compassionate. We understand the rulings and stuff, but if the government says you don’t have to be excessive, as long as you blow the horn and let people know you are there.”
“I just know that as a corporation, I don’t see how we could go to our employees and say, ‘Ease up on the safety,'” Cheetham noted. “We will follow the law, and we will not ask our employees not to follow the law.”
“Has there been a change from two years and three years ago,” Stackpole noted. “Has the government changed their rulings since to make this change, is all I’m getting at.”
“Before it wasn’t nearly as bad,” Pallisco noted.
“When the citations were served, boy were things worse,” Kristi Gieseke noted. “The excessive blocking and the horns especially . . . they blew them longer and louder.”
Cheetham noted that it appeared that if Gieseke and other residents were suggesting that CSX officials were making life harder on area residents after public meetings. “There would be no reason to retaliate,” he noted.
Stackpole noted that she wanted CSX to see and feel what “I see and feel.”
“I’d let you spend the night at my house,” she said. “You’ve got to live there and be there to understand,” she said. “It’s gotten so bad, if I put my home on the market, I would never . . . People would laugh at my face to want to buy it. It’s worthless. My home is worthless.”
“We are trying,” Cheetham stated, referencing how CSX worked with the school buses. “We set up windows to try to guarantee the crossings would be open.”
“It didn’t work,” Gieseke noted.
“We didn’t hear that from the board of education,” Cheetham noted.
Gieseke noted that the buses don’t use the crossings. “They were making kids walk to the other side of the bridge,” she said.
“We changed our operations and changed ways our crews came in,” Cheetham stated.
Gieseke added that during the open windows, she almost missed a flight and her husband got stopped. “It didn’t work,” she said. “I’m not saying it never worked, but there were times when kids were late to school and people late for work, and that window of time wasn’t being adhered to.”
“We can’t guarantee it,” Cheetham said. “I know the crews did everything they could.”
Pallisco noted that the community might feel different if CSX would try to work with them. “If you could pave the gravel road . . . if that was at least in the planning or had even been talked about . . .”
“If we had a line of communication . . .” Gieseke stated, “Jason if you are the guy . . . if we can let you know when it is not working . . .”
“We are all in this together,” Mayor Keith Nelsen stated, adding that he didn’t want 10 people contacting CSX about the same issues. “Bonnie can do it, and she is able to get them.”
Cheetham stated that Bishop would “get with the road master,” and go through every crossing through New Martinsville. He stated that CSX would further look into seeing about temporary repairs, such as crushed gravel, to help make the crossings somewhat smoother. “I’ll ask the division manager about the access road, at least putting gravel . . .”
Nelsen also suggested CSX look into the county’s alert system. “If you work with EMS,” Nelsen noted, “ask them about CodeRED.” CodeRED is Wetzel County’s emergency alert system, which allows Wetzel County officials the ability to quickly deliver messages to targeted areas or the entire county. Anyone who wishes to receive the communications to a cell phone as well as a home phone will need to register a home address associated with the cell phone number through the enrollment site. For more information on this system, check out wetzelwv.com /wv/wetzel/ and scroll to the bottom of the page for the appropriate enrollment link.