GUSTAVUS - Township and county officials were upset Wednesday when they learned a railroad company had shut down four major crossings without alerting emergency responders to the closings.
The four crossings owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad - at state Route 87, Gardner Barclay Road, Davis Peck Road and Fisher Cornith Road - were all shut down at the same time, officials said.
Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith and Gustavus fire Chief Rod McNeeley said they received no notice of the closings.
The Ohio Department of Transportation also said it was not made aware of the closing for the state route.
Norfolk Southern, however, did give them notice they will be doing work on a crossing at state Route 88 in Johnston where it crosses state Routes 193 and 7 beginning Friday through the following Thursday.
Norfolk Southern spokesman Dave Pigeon said the company will reach out to township officials.
"We recognize the hardship this places on citizens and emergency responders," Pigeon said. "We are reaching out to authorities now and opening a dialogue to upgrade these crossings as fast and as safely and efficiently as possible."
Smith said they've encountered some problems in the past with railroad companies shutting down county roads without giving notice. Railroads are supposed to give the county engineer notice, who then lets county commissioners approve the road closings.
"They're getting into a very bad habit of closing one state road and then doing work on an adjacent county road for their convenience," Smith said. "We had calls from Maplewood School District for a similar situation last year. We're going to have to start inquiring when the railroad is doing work if they are going to do work on county roads too."
Smith said he became aware of two closings after a Trumbull County sheriff's deputy trying to get from Gustavus to Kinsman on a call encountered the closed road.
McNeeley said he was driving Tuesday night when he saw the closing at state Route 87. He told workers there to contact their supervisors because they failed to notify him of the closings.
McNeeley said the closings could delay emergency responders trying to get east of the tracks about five to seven minutes.
"I told the gentlemen it's a matter of life and death," he said. "That cuts five to seven minutes off of a response time. That's a lot for a fire or a shortness of breath call. Five minutes is a huge deal."