LUMBERTON — A plan by the N.C. Department of Transportation to permanently close a railroad crossing on Buie’s Mill Road would present school transportation problems as well as be an inconvenience for nearby residents, according to a Robeson County commissioner.
“I want that crossing left open. It would cause a significant problem for school buses as well as for other drivers,” said Commissioner Raymond Cummings, who oversees transportation for the Public Schools of Robeson County. “I don’t think it would be smart to block that off…There’s a big subdivision over there. Those residents would have a lot of detouring to do if they can’t use that road.”
The commissioners voted Monday to oppose the permanent closing of the crossing near Red Springs after being updated by DOT officials about the plan. The closure is being considered by the state as part of its plans to replace the bridge on N.C. 211 over the CSX railroad between Lumberton and Red Springs..
According to Brian Gackstetter, with DOT’s Rail Division, right-of-way acquisition for the bridge project is expected to begin in 2015, with construction to be under way in 2017.
The commissioners were updated on DOT plans for the bridge construction by Chuck Miller, the local DOT district engineer, Gackstetter, and Jahmal Pullen, who like Gackstetter is with the DOT Rail Division. DOT officials said they wanted feedback on the project from county officials before moving forward.
Although there was an informational workshop on the bridge project held at the Red Springs Community Building in November, the DOT representatives said there were no comments from the public concerning the proposed railroad crossing closure.
Gackstetter said the permanent closure of the crossing would not prevent the project from moving forward since there is another railroad crossing nearby. Pullen added that closing the crossing is more of a “safety issue” than anything else.
“It is not an ideal crossing because there is a curve coming into it,” Pullen said. “At this point passenger trains travel at 79 mph and freight trains 60 mph…There are signals and a gate to warn drivers of the crossing, but (they) do not keep them from getting onto the tracks.”
Commissioners Roger Oxendine and Lance Herndon both raised concerns about how the closure might impede the flow of tractor-trailers and other large vehicles that often use the route to avoid using N.C. 211.
“I think we need to look into this more,” Oxendine said.
DOT officials said the concerns of the commissioners “carry a lot of weight” in determining whether the closing of the crossing will become permanent. The crossing, they said, will have to be closed for the two years that the bridge construction takes place.
Leaky roof fix
on hold a week
In other business, the commissioners on Monday were requested by Darlene Jacobs, executive director of the Robeson County Church and Community Center, to provide funding for the repair or replacement of the center’s leaking roof.Estimates received for the work range from $3,500 for a “quick fix” to $29,000 for roof replacement, according to Jacobs.
Jacobs said the roof was replaced in 2007, but began leaking shortly after. The problem has gotten worse over time, with heavy rains last week causing water damage to the center’s computer system, ceiling tiles, insulation, carpet, and furniture, she said.
After a brief discussion, the commissioners decided to wait until the bidding process for the the project ends next week before determining what financial assistance they can provide.
“I think we ought to open our hearts and help them,” Commissioner Jerry Stephens said.
The commissioners on Monday also:
— Approved economic development incentives for “Project Stars,” an industry that plans to invest $6 million in equipment and machinery toward expansion of its operations in the county. The project, which is calling for the creation of five new jobs with a starting hourly wage of $12.50, will help retain existing jobs, according to Greg Cummings, the county’s economic developer.
According to Cummings, the business business qualifies for a Level I Economic Development Incentive Grant.
— Approved the addition of Star Dust Circle, located in the Fork Pines, Section 2, Subdivision, to the state road system. The addition stretches .06 miles from Fork Pines Road to the cul-de-sac.
— Approved a conditional-use permit request for a telecommunications tower in Rennert.
— Heard an update on the All Heart Wheelchair Basketball Team from Welton Locklear, the team’s president.