After nearly two months, work to repair railroad crossings in Muscogee County is complete, but some areas may not look the same to motorists, a Norfolk Southern Corporation spokesman said.
A resident noticed the change at a crossing in his neighborhood and asked, “Why are they going to switch over to asphalt when they had smooth transitioning concrete at the crossings?”
Jon Glass, manager of public relations in Norfolk, Va., confirmed that at least four crossings in Muscogee County — including one with heavy truck traffic on Fortson Road — were switched from concrete to asphalt surfaces.
Concrete panels at three crossings were replaced because they had started to wobble. “When that happens, they are prone to break into big chunks and then can create real problems,” he said.
For me, the concrete crossings were so smooth, I almost stopped slowing down when traveling over the crossings. You can feel the difference.
They are expensive to replace. Concrete slabs are designed to be reused, but Norfolk Southern doesn’t keep them on hand. “That’s why asphalt was used at the Fortson Road crossing,” Glass said.
Heavy truck traffic left some concrete slabs broken and cracked on Fortson Road . The broken slabs could not be re-used. “Because of the heavy truck traffic, the thinking was that the asphalt might hold up better and could be more easily repaired if damage did occur,” Glass said.
There is still some minor work left at the Macon Road and Technology Parkway crossing, which also was changed from concrete to asphalt. Broken concrete slabs are still at the location, and the crews have to resurface the pavement at the crossing.
Glass noted Norfolk Southern will install concrete panels at crossings if the city requested the materials and agreed to pay for the panels. Asphalt is less expensive and lasts longer, while concrete panels are considered a public improvement project.
It’s a three-stage process to repair each railroad crossing. Even at crossings with concrete, it may appear the crew is replacing concrete with asphalt. Whether it’s an asphalt crossing or concrete, a gang removes the existing asphalt or concrete and replaces the timber crossties.
The crossing is filled with a cold patch mix of asphalt, allowing the road to open for motorists. It makes no difference whether the crossing had concrete or asphalt.
Using an assembly line-type process, track machines then lift the rail to proper elevation and tamp stone ballasts around the crossties and rail. The cold asphalt patch is removed to allow equipment to move through it. At this point, the re-usable concrete slabs are moved back into place or crossings with asphalt are repaved and finished.
Crews worked 55 road crossings in Columbus and Phenix City in January. The maintenance is aimed at enhancing the safety of rail operations through Columbus and hopefully provide a smoother ride for motorists. “It likely will be seven or eight years before the crossings need to be maintained again,” Glass said.
If you’ve seen something that needs attention, give me a call.