- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Repairs will be made to a railroad crossing in Waldorf, which will close Leonardtown Road near Pika Drive from July 28 to Aug. 1.
Those repairs are being made to create a smoother ride, but the closing may temporarily affect commuters and others traveling through Waldorf from St. Mary’s County.
The railroad crossing is near Leonardtown Road’s intersection with Route 301 and Route 228. Route 228 leads to Indian Head Highway.
Charlie Gischlar, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said with repairs taking place in the summer, school traffic is not a concern, but the SHA encourages drivers to plan ahead to use detour routes or to the area as much as possible while repairs are done. Charles Street in La Plata will be closed from July 21 to 25 at the railroad crossing for similar work.
Gischlar said the repairs are a project by CSX, but SHA is providing traffic control in the “most feasible way and safest way. The detour routes should hold pretty good here,” Gischlar said.
According to 2012 estimates by the SHA, 21,000 vehicles travel on Leonardtown Road each day. Railroad crossings wear out with railroad and vehicle traffic and due to extreme weather conditions, according to Gischlar.
“We appreciate people working with us here and leaving plenty of time” to get to their destinations, Gischlar said. He encouraged drivers to keep in mind that both areas will be a work zone and to be cautious, but in the long run, both routes will be “smoother.”
Rob Doolittle, spokesman for CSX, said at each crossing the existing track will be removed and the crossing regraded to be level with the roadway. Precast blocks of concrete will be placed at each crossing.
“Concrete is a much more durable material to install in this crossing,” Doolittle said. Concrete will make for a smoother ride and last longer.
Doolittle said CSX has worked with SHA to identify detours for motorists during the repairs and said he is confident the repairs can be completed in the scheduled time frame. CSX is also aware of University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center on Charles Street.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure there is access at all times to the facility while we are completing this work,” Doolittle said.
Chris Richardson is the co-owner of Bike Doctor on Leonardtown Road near the railroad crossing in Waldorf. He said he will be informing his regular customers of the road closure and detour beginning the first week of July, but he expects the lack of traffic flow near the railroad crossing will affect his business that week.
“At least when [the railroad track] is fixed it will be better [to drive over], but during the week [that area of the road is closed], it will hurt [my business],” Richardson said.
He added that he wishes one side of the road at a time would be closed for repairs instead of all four lanes.
“Hopefully, it doesn’t drag out more than five days,” Richardson said.
The owner of JR’s Auto Sales and Myers Shell on Leonardtown Road, which are very near to the railroad tracks, and Myers Auto Service on nearby Pika Drive, said he hopes the crew working on the repairs works more than eight hours per day and works in rainy weather so the repairs take only five days.
“If they don’t, it really hurts a small business owner,” said Neil A. Myers Jr. Myers’ father opened what is now Myers Shell but was Myers Texaco in 1964.
Myers said last winter was a tough season on his businesses, especially for JR’s Auto Sales, which sells used cars. He anticipates that only customers who charge their gas will come to the pumps at the Shell station, such as big trucks, but other customers will not come that way while the road is closed near the railroad crossing.
“It’s going to slow things down and make things hard” for his businesses, Myers, 52, said.
When the railroad crossing was last repaired 20 years ago, Myers said he remembers it hurt his businesses then, too. Myers said he will do whatever he can for customers to make that week as convenient as possible, such as letting them park vehicles for repairs and maintenance somewhere else on Leonardtown Road for his mechanics at Myers Auto Service to pick up.
“It’s something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Chief J.R. Hayden of the Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department, which is on Old Washington Road off Leonardtown Road, said.
Hayden said he has been a part of meetings between the county and CSX to discuss repairing the crossings. In a meeting a year ago, CSX agreed to have an emergency lane over the railroad crossing on Leonardtown Road for emergency vehicles, Hayden said.
Traffic to the hospital in La Plata, according to Gischlar, will be directed to take Route 6 to St. Mary’s Avenue, then Glen Albin Road to Oak Avenue and finally to Wicomico Street. The SHA will put up more blue hospital signs during the closure of Charles Street at the railroad crossing.
For each crossing, pedestrian access will be permitted, and businesses in both areas will be open and accessible.