Stay off Crain Avenue bridge

Jeff Russ

No one was injured, but route may be closed until Monday after train fails to make clearance, cars derail

A train struck the Crain Avenue bridge around 1:40 p.m. yesterday, causing some structural damage but no injuries.

As of 6 p.m. yesterday, James Bowling, Kent superintendent of engineering, said the bridge could be closed until Monday.

The train failed to make the 14-foot clearance, causing seven train cars to overturn. Only the conductor and engineer were onboard the train, which is operated by the CSX Corporation. Some still tried to drive over the bridge after the crash, but authorities quickly shut down the bridge.

“It felt like a minor earthquake,” said Michael Katz, who was driving on the bridge at the time of the crash. “It sounded like a snow plow dragging in cement. I saw (the train) slowly go up, and then come back down.”

Thirteen of the 119 cars derailed from the front of the train, which was heading from Newell, Pa., to Flint, Mich. A few of the cars were completely smashed underneath the bridge.

The cars were carrying coal, which spilled all over the track, but none spilled into the adjacent Cuyahoga River. CSX restoration crews from Columbus and Pittsburgh arrived on the scene early in the evening to help with the clean-up.

Bowling said CSX hopes to have the area clean and have trains running on the track by 7 p.m.

As of last night, CSX was still investigating how the accident happened. Kent Police Chief James Peach said the snow had no impact on the accident.

City officials spent most of the afternoon surveying the damage to gas lines, phones lines and sewage underneath the bridge. A sewage line underneath the bridge broke, causing raw sewage to flow underneath the bridge. The sewage was diverted away from the river. No gas lines were affected.

Bowling said it is “next to impossible” to survey damage to the bridge now due to the train cars twisted and wedged underneath the bridge.

A complete inspection of the bridge is planned for Saturday morning to determine an exact time to reopen the bridge.

The bridge serves approximately 15,000 vehicles per day, making it the second most active crossing in the city, according to the City of Kent’s Web site. Tracks operated by CSX and the Cuyahoga River both run under the bridge. An inspection of the bridge in 2007 revealed the bridge to be a level IV bridge, meaning it is in poor condition. Construction on the bridge is scheduled to begin in March 2009 and to be finished by December 2011.

On Sept. 20, a combination car heading eastbound toward Ravenna snagged power lines, cutting telephone service to 2,000 AT&T subscribers. A similar incident occurred on June 12, 2006, when a cargo train was lodged under state Route 43 bridge in Ravenna.

Contact public affairs reporter Jeff Russ at [email protected].