02/03/09 — Pikeville could get Vail Street railroad warning devices

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Pikeville could get Vail Street railroad warning devices

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 3, 2009 1:46 PM

PIKEVILLE -- The federal government has money for Pikeville to put up automatic warning devices at its Vail Street railroad crossing, a letter from a state engineer says.

But the money's only good if Pikeville agrees on the project while having only an "estimate" of the total cost, which could be "subject to considerable variation," a letter from N.C. Department of Transportation crossing project engineer Jim Morrison shows.

"Estimated construction costs shown above (a town share of $17,750), are preliminary ones," Commissioner Vance Greeson said. "So we really don't have a figure. It could be a lot higher, or it could be a lot lower."

Town officials decided to hold off on a decision on the project at Monday night's meeting.

Town Administrator Kathie Fields said the town attorney advised strongly against accepting the terms of the letter, which also says the town would be responsible for one-half the annual maintenance costs of any signals.

That annual half-share of maintenance would be paid directly to Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX railroad company, Morrison says in the letter, a process set out by state law.

The estimated annual share of maintenance is $1,290, according to Morrison's letter.

Commissioner Todd Anderson wondered aloud if "it's appropriate to challenge these things."

"This sounds like legislative-ese," Anderson said. "At what point does it constitute that you have to put these Mickey Mouse-devices up?"

The state says it believes Pikeville has legal risk from its crossing at Vail Road because it lacks a guard arm.

The letter words its assessment of Pikeville's legal risk in this way.

"The choice to accept or decline this project is the Town's. However, if the Town does decline the project, we feel that the Town may be subject to possible additional liability if an accident were to occur at the crossing."

The letter gives the town 60 days to agree to the project or decline it, sending notice to the state in writing, Morrison says in the letter.

The money for the $200,000 project to install railroad guards comes from the Highway-Railway Safety Program, during the current fiscal year, Morrison said.