Rail officials meet with Antrim board

PAT FRIDGEN
Officials from Norfolk Southern Railway met officials from Antrim Township face to face Oct.16. The two sides discussed issues that will affect residents once an intermodal terminal is constructed south of Greencastle. The facility will require rerouted traffic patterns on several township roads.

Ten representatives from Antrim Township met with nine personnel from Norfolk Southern Railway and Atapco while eight citizens watched. Such was the make up of the Oct. 16 worksession of the Antrim Township Board of Supervisors, planned specifically to address any concerns about the proposed regional intermodal facility near Exit 3.

The conversation centered around a list compiled by Paul Minnich, Antrim roadmaster and maintenance supervisor. Roger Bennett, Director of Industrial Development, said some issues surrounding Hykes and Milnor roads could not yet be answered. The grade separation on Hykes will result in a 130x30-foot bridge with a six foot shoulder for pedestrian traffic. Ownership of the bridge was the big question. Antrim didn't want it, but Bennet said typically the railway did not own a bridge unless the track was on top of it. Therefore, it would belong to the township though built by NS.

Engineer Charles McMillan said NS was designing it for minimal maintenance requirements. The major expense would be the inspections. NS indicated it would discuss making a lump sum contribution toward future maintenance.

With Milnor scheduled to be closed, the supervisors wondered how Williamsport Pike could handle the additional traffic at the Hykes intersection. NS had studied the flow and found a signal was not warranted under PennDOT criteria. If anything, maybe a flashing light could be installed. It planned to continue to monitor that traffic. NS added, "in the spirit of cooperation, we are willing to discuss sharing in the cost of a township project to improve Hykes Road."

The ownership of Milnor was another sticking point. NS left it open for discussion, to include PennDOT. The cul-de-sac on the eastern side of the tracks will be in the northwest corner of the current Pittman property and the western one on the former freighthouse property. While Antrim wanted gates installed in each cul-de-sac for emergency vehicle entrances, NS doubted either was likely due to grade differences and location along the tracks.

The impact of the intermodal truck traffic on the U.S. 11 and Commerce Avenue intersection also generated a conversation. Consultant Robert Badger said even in 20 years only adjustments to the signal timing would be required, not any right or left turn lanes. The NS peak traffic would be no greater than that seen now from the companies in the business park, and it would be at different hours.

Antrim administrator Brad Graham said, "We understand your observation, but in reality we wonder if it's right."

Pat Coggins from Atapco said his development off Exit 3 could eventually create enough additional traffic to warrant left turn lanes, which they would put in. In addition, while Minnich contended Commerce was in poor condition, NS said it was in good condition.

Coggins was doing a traffic study for the exit and believed improvements would be put out to bid in 2012. Until then the Antrim Commons Business Park traffic would use Armada Drive off Commerce Drive. NS planned to be operational that same year.

NS had asked for a letter of support for its project, as it sought a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant. Antrim had refused in September until it had more information.  NS received 94 letters from agencies along its five-state crescent corridor and though the deadline had passed, with the TIGER grant application already submitted, it welcomed the positive message such a letter would indicate. On a Curtis Myers/Fred Young III motion, the supervisors approved the letter. Sam Miller and Rick Baer were also in favor, James Byers was against.