City officials have received complaints about the Nine Mile Road railroad crossing near Hilton Road in the past. This includes requests to fix potholes that have plagued the surface.

City officials have received complaints about the Nine Mile Road railroad crossing near Hilton Road in the past. This includes requests to fix potholes that have plagued the surface.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Nine Mile railroad crossing to undergo construction next year

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published December 19, 2020


FERNDALE — A railroad crossing on Nine Mile Road will undergo major reconstruction next year thanks in part to an award from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

MDOT recently announced 37 projects across the state that will receive approximately $3 million in funding total as part of its Local Grade Crossing Surface Program. The money specifically is to go toward highway-railroad grade crossing surface improvements, which can include “anything from minor asphalt repairs to installing completely new track and surface materials,” a press release states.

According to the press release, the Local Grade Crossing Surface Program covers 60% of the funding for eligible projects, while the railroads are responsible for the remaining 40% of costs.

“All repair work is performed by the railroad company and its contractors, with cooperation for detour routes provided by the local road agencies,” the statement reads. “The railroad and local road agency are responsible for scheduling the construction work.”

The railroad and local road agency in question are Canadian National Railway and the city of Ferndale, respectively.

The project is the railroad crossing on Nine Mile Road near Hilton Road. Local Crossing Program Manager for the Office of Rail in MDOT Kris Foondle said the grants for projects like this are “truly grants,” which means they will reimburse the actual cost once the project has been completed.

“While we have rough ballpark numbers right now based on detailed estimates, we will actually only reimburse the actual cost after the railroad has finished the work and sends in their detailed bills,” he said. “The grant money that we award is solely for the railroad work to rebuild the track structure and the crossing surface. There is no associated roadwork involved with the grant. This is specifically for rebuilding the crossing.”

While the numbers are not final and won’t be until the project is completed, Foondle estimates the Nine Mile crossing project to cost $545,000, of which they would reimburse roughly $330,000.

In terms of the potential length of the project, Foondle said it could take several weeks to complete.

“The three-track crossing on a skew in a downtown environment like that is probably going to be on the order of two to three weeks,” he said. “That’s a lot of work, a lot of coordination and a lot of detouring could be done. … These are just ballpark averages for typical construction. Sometimes they can be done faster. Sometimes they’ll take longer. It really depends on what they encounter once they get the track taken out and they evaluate all the site conditions.”

Adding to this, Foondle said, is how busy the Nine Mile railroad is, which is something the construction crew has to take into account in order to maintain train traffic and road traffic in the area.

“They will likely take one track out of service or two tracks out of service and run trains on the remaining track, and then they’ll have to flip over and put train traffic back on one of the tracks they’ve already fixed and then take the other one out of service,” he said. “This is going to be a fair amount of complication because of the environment that it’s in (downtown Ferndale) and the skew of the crossing and the fact that you’ve got three tracks all right next to each other as part of one single crossing.”

Ferndale DPW Deputy Director Dan Antosik described the current state of the crossing as in “rough shape,” and said the city has received complaints about it in the past, including requests to fix the potholes.

“It’s not the greatest condition of a crossing right now,” he said. “We’ve had complaints about it. I know CN tried to work with us last year to get this round of funding to do rail crossing improvement right there, but we were anticipating Woodward (Avenue) resurfacing going on at that time. We didn’t want to gridlock Nine Mile, Woodward, the (Interstate) 75 project was going on, so we chose to delay it and now we’re just revisiting that.”

Ferndale doesn’t have to commit any money toward the project, and Antosik said the city’s part in facilitating the grant was to fill out an application and other paperwork.

While the decision will be up to CN, Antosik believes the project will start in the spring or summer.