The North Carolina Department of Transportation has made last-minute efforts to secure an asphalt contractor to pave the Marston Road railroad crossing, which would otherwise have been left blocked off until at least Monday, according to the NCDOT.
The Marston Road railroad crossing was undergoing maintenance work by CSX and was barricaded on Monday night — blocking off access to the Marston community.
According to Richmond County officials, Emergency Services and law enforcement were not notified of the maintenance plans until Monday night. NCDOT said they were not notified of the maintenance work ahead of time, either.
On Wednesday, a CSX spokesperson said construction would be wrapped up by Friday.
County officials have been concerned with the crossings from U.S. Highway 1 into the Marston community being closed off from access, due to a delayed response time should an emergency occur.
“What I found out from CSX was that hopefully by Monday (Feb. 11) they will pave the crossing,” said Rockingham District Engineer Kevin Hedrick of NCDOT. “They said they checked within 100 miles and could not find an asphalt contractor.”
Hedrick said sometimes this type of maintenance is done both by CSX and NCDOT, where NCDOT helps with the paving, but in this case CSX was responsible for railroad maintenance and repaving of the asphalt it tore up. Hedrick said this time of year, asphalt contractors typically do not put down asphalt and do not find it feasible to lay only a small amount of asphalt.
“NCDOT will be paving that road crossing on Saturday,” said Hedrick on Friday evening, after securing an asphalt contractor. “It will take a good bit of the day since it’s all hand work. It has been a job to get everyone to work together on this.”
However, CSX claims it secured the asphalt contractor.
“CSX crews finished the track maintenance (Thursday),” said CSX Communications Director Carla Groleau on Friday, “however, due to low temperatures, asphalt was unavailable. CSX has since located an asphalt plant that can operate tomorrow, so that crews can complete the paving and re-open the crossing, weather permitting.”
Controversy erupted in the Marston community when residents of the area, as well as school bus drivers who pick up children there, were alarmed to find the roads blocked off that normally allow access to U.S. Highway 1.
Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. spoke with residents and worked with Emergency Services Director Donna Wright to alleviate the situation, according to a press release. Both Clemmons and Wright visited the area Monday night.
“Safety of our citizens is my main priority,” said Clemmons.
“While we did receive notification of the closings, it was certainly not early enough for our citizens or emergency services to prepare,” said Wright, and Clemmons agreed.
According to Groleau, “We do our best to make early notifications, and my understanding is that signage was in place as of last week.”
According to Hedrick, NCDOT did not receive advanced notification of the construction work planned by CSX.
“CSX did not notify us that they were doing this work,” said Hedrick. “Our folks were made aware after the fact, but we didn’t know about it until then.”
“Detour signs were posted on adjacent roads to both crossings last Monday (Jan. 28),” said Groleau, adding that those signs were placed at Marston and Laurel Hill Crossings. “The company apologizes for any inconvenience to our neighbors during this track work. CSX crews do their very best to work as safely and swiftly as possible to minimize impact to vehicular traffic in the communities in which we operate.”
Richmond County Emergency Services and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office worked Monday night to inform residents of the Marston community about “the potentially dangerous situation,” officials said in a press release Tuesday. Only having access to the Marston community by way of Cognac Road, commute times and emergency response times have been increased substantially. Richmond County law enforcement and Emergency Services said they continue to monitor the area and use the detour to access the community.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.