Middlebury Road Bridge Q&A
Who owns the Middlebury bridge?
The bridge is private property that belongs to the CSX railroad company. That means it’s up to the railroad to keep the bridge safe and there’s nothing the City can do to it without railroad approval.
Is the bridge safe?
No. Engineering inspections revealed significant safety problems with the bridge structure. Given the age of the bridge, the deterioration is not surprising. It is time to replace the bridge.
So why hasn’t CSX replaced the bridge?
CSX trains run under the bridge and with the bridge closed to vehicle traffic overhead the threat of a bridge collapse is fairly low. As a result, CSX has little incentive to hurry and replace the bridge.
What about the City?
Given the amount of people that rely on Middlebury Road to get in and out of Kent, the City is very concerned about replacing the bridge as quickly as possible. So much so in fact, the City went ahead and spent $226,000 to purchase a new bridge in 2004 without the approval of CSX to install it.
So where is the new bridge now?
The bridge was manufactured and is in storage awaiting CSX approval for installation.
What’s holding up that approval?
Since the bridge is owned by the CSX railroad, the City has been trying to negotiate with CSX to expedite repairs by offering to share the cost of the new bridge and to transfer ownership of the bridge to the City so that in the future the City can maintain the bridge properly and make sure it doesn’t fall into such disrepair that it would have to be closed again.
How are those negotiations going?
The City has offered to assume all of the future costs and has agreed to contribute 80% of the $1.2 million needed to install the new bridge but CSX has rejected the City’s offer. Over the course of the negotiations CSX has at various times expressed agreement in principle only to later rescind their support as they changed engineers and legal counsel, causing the negotiations to start over each time.
So what can the City do?
After 2 years of attempts to negotiate a deal, the City filed a lawsuit in December 2005 asking the court to issue a judgment ordering CSX to repair the bridge. While the suit is in process the City has still urged CSX to try to negotiate a settlement rather than wait for legal action. CSX has again assigned new legal counsel to the case and they have asked the City to drop the lawsuit in the spirit of cooperation but until an agreement is signed, the City will continue the lawsuit.
How long before any action?
The court dockets are busy and the City’s Law Director indicates that the lawsuit will be heard in September 2006. If the court ruled in the City’s favor, bridge installation would probably carry over into 2007. In the meantime, the City will continue to push CSX to reach agreement outside the court and if that happens the bridge could be installed and re-opened by late summer or early fall 2006.
This has been a frustrating process for everyone and we appreciate your patience and apologize for the disruptions and inconvenience the bridge closing has caused.