MDOT railroad project repairs on track for spring

By SHERRI KOLADE
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — If all goes to plan, residents will see double train tracks installed by next year. The Michigan Department of Transportation will install the tracks as part of its “Double Track Project.”

The site of the state-owned railroad crossing, which crosses Gulley Road south of Michigan Ave., has one railroad track that carries passenger and freight trains, which can sometimes be a hazard to anyone who crosses the tracks by car or foot, City Councilwoman Lisa Hicks-Clayton said during a Nov. 27 City Council meeting.

“At that time we will see improvement of the existing crossings with a double track,” Hicks-Clayton said. “That will be good news for that crossing because I know a lot of people call about that because the tracks need improvements.

Shipping and transportation company Norfolk Southern, headquartered in Norfolk, Va., with Dearborn division headquarters at 17301 Michigan Ave., owns the railroad crossing and plans to sell 135 miles of railroad to MDOT.

MDOT will turn approximately nine of those 135 miles into double tracks; the track will run from Dearborn’s new train station, on Michigan Avenue east of Brady, to Elizabeth Street in Wayne.

Shaun Bates, manager in MDOT’s Office of Rail, said MDOT railroad personnel will also repair the tracks; other crossings from Kalamazoo to Dearborn also are scheduled for upgrades.

“We are upgrading all public and private crossing in the double track section,” Bates said. “It makes for a better, smoother ride.”

Bates said he cannot elaborate on the details of how much the project will cost MDOT because of current negotiations. He added that the exact track repairs are still in the design phases and the construction schedule is currently being discussed.

MDOT Spokeswoman Janet Foran said the upgrades will take between two and four years.

City Councilwoman Janet Badalow said the current tracks are a hazard to pedestrians.

“Cars don’t like it either but it is pedestrians who really have a huge problem,” Badalow said during the council meeting. “I tried to navigate (the tracks) myself a couple of times and it is definitely (not easy).”

Director of Public Works Bill Zimmer contacted MDOT earlier this year to request a repair service for the train tracks crossing through Dearborn Heights but MDOT personnel told him they already planned to have it fixed.

“That is the first I heard about the double track project,” Zimmer said. “I am happy to see it done.”

Zimmer said because of safety issues, city personnel cannot fix the tracks, the repairs of which must conform with MDOT guidelines. Zimmer said when the tracks are fixed they will make traveling easier for residents who have to cross them.

“The tracks will be a lot more functional for us and easy for us to maneuver,”Zimmer said.

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com.)