G Street bridge removal concerns Hamilton leaders as it could lead to more train traffic

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

CSX says it would mean diverted train traffic, not additional.

Hamilton is seeking a $1 million state grant to tear down a closed bridge, but city leaders are considering an alternative plan.

City Manager Joshua Smith wants city staff to address at next week’s council meeting the question, “Could the South G Street bridge be converted into a pedestrian bridge?”

After City Council last week approved a resolution for the city to seek a $1 million Ohio Department of Transportation grant to tear down the bridge that’s been closed since 2008, Council member Susan Vaught said a constituent asked if the bridge could be saved for pedestrian use.

The South G Street Bridge was constructed in 1909 and crossed an east-west set of CSX tracks. City Engineer Rich Engle told the council last week that he didn’t think the bridge could be saved, but Smith wanted to have a more definitive answer to the question.

The bridge once connected South G Street to Puthoff Street, and has been an eyesore for the neighborhood that’s just a few blocks south of Main Street. The hook-shaped bridge ramps from South G Street onto Puthoff Street in order to clear the CSX road. The bridge was rated a 3 out of 10, which is one less than “poor,” Assistant Director of Engineering Allen Messer said at the Jan. 25 City Council meeting, adding “it’s become a real nuisance to the people in the neighborhood.”

The city, in 2005, commissioned a study to determine the feasibility of replacing the bridge for vehicle traffic. The study determined it wasn’t viable largely because of the impact on residents and the high costs associated with a replacement.

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One significant concern for Smith was that razing the South G Street bridge would remove an impediment for CSX, thus allowing them to eventually run more and taller train cars (like car carriers) on the east-west tracks through the city. This could not happen as of now because of other bridges, like the D Street Bridge, preventing that possibility.

Hamilton Director of Infrastructure Edwin Porter said CSX officials told him if they could run their bigger train cars on the east-west tracks, it would divert train traffic and not add to it. However, Smith doubted the longevity of that promise, saying, “plans always change.”

Several years ago, CSX sent a delegation of officials from Jacksonville, Fla. to meet with city officials and removing the South G Street bridge “was very high on their list for removal,” Smith said. “They also wanted D Street to have cul-de-sacs on either side of the tracks. Nothing came out of that conversation.

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“We already have a lot of trains crossing in Hamilton that are very busy,” Smith said. “At some point in the future, plans always change. If there’s any way to leave it in place and to make it an amenity, I certainly would, I think, be in favor of that.”

He then stressed his primary concern: “It’s difficult to get through Hamilton already with train traffic going north and south. If we add substantial more train traffic, you literally could have gridlock inside the downtown (without adding more overpasses or underpasses). That’s my primary concern.”

If the city moves forward with the grant to demolish the closed viaduct, the city will be responsible for 5% of the project funding. City officials requested CSX pay the local match, and said officials from the transportation giant are still debating if they would contribute.

Mayor Pat Moeller said if they move forward with the demolition, CSX should pay, adding, “I’m kind of concerned about why we’re paying that 5% if it’s going to benefit them to such a great degree.”

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