Symmes Road Rail Crossing Elimination

The Butler County Transportation Improvement District (BCTID), in partnership with the City of Fairfield, Ohio (the City) and CSX Transportation (CSX), requested $3 million in FY 2022 Railroad Crossing Elimination Program (RCE) funding for planning and project development activities for safety and mobility improvements at two adjacent crossings – Symmes Road and North Gilmore Road (collectively referred to as the Project). This Project is a component of a broader corridor improvement effort, with the City of Hamilton (immediately north of Fairfield) submitting a companion application for the North Hamilton Crossing – Butler Street Rail Project.

The BCTID proposes to advance project development and environmental review activities for highway-rail grade separation on Symmes Road and evaluate the feasibility of closing the North Gilmore Road crossing. These crossings are located along the CSX Cincinnati Terminal Subdivision – a vital thoroughfare connecting Louisville, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, and Detroit. (as well as daily Amtrak service connecting New York and Chicago). In response to this challenge, the City has completed conceptual design for two highway-rail grade separation alternatives; and regionally tens of millions of dollars have been invested in crossing closures and grade separation projects along the corridor. This project offers the following benefits:

  • Safety: The Symmes Road and North Gilmore Road crossings have seen a combined 16 crashes, eight fatalities, and nine injuries according to the FRA Grade Crossing Inventory. Grade separation and closure of these crossings, respectively, will eliminate two conflict points while improving emergency response times both within the City and regionally. 
  • Congestion: Reduced congestion, delay, and emissions from over 40 train movements per day on roadways with annual average daily traffic of approximately 13,000 (Symmes Road) and 9,000 vehicles (North Gilmore Road). Trains frequently block one or both crossings for several hours at a time.
  • Equity: The benefits characterized above will be concentrated within a Census tract with a 9.5% poverty rate and a median annual household income of under $50,000. The project location qualifies as a Justice40 Community and Federal Opportunity Zone.
  • Rail Operations: Improved reliability of rail movements along one of the most important freight corridors in the Midwest, connecting several major industrial cities along the I-75 highway corridor. Completion of this project will provide over 4.5 miles of track space without at-grade crossing interference north of the CSX Queensgate Yard, the fifth largest by volume in the CSX network.
  • Economic Development: With more than 36,000 jobs within three miles of the Symmes Road crossing, the corridor provides critical access to the region’s workforce. Several industrial properties surrounding the Symmes Road crossing present new job attraction and retention opportunities, with some served directly by rail access.   

The BCTID and the City greatly appreciate the FRA’s grant of this request for RCE funding. The BCTID and the City anticipate continuing its strong working relationship with FRA and USDOT in building and sustaining the nation’s infrastructure and achieving USDOT’s programmatic goals of promoting safety, state of good repair, economic development, and freight movement, addressing climate change, and promoting resiliency, equity, and innovation in transportation.

Article By City Manager Scott Timmer