Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Communication breakdown: Who dropped the ball on CSX’s mass road closures in Wilmington?

According to CSX's contractor, the City of Wilmington was notified of plans to close nearly 30 roadways on Jan. 3. Somehow, the information did not make its way to authorities or the public until much later.

CSX is closing nearly 30 rail-crossings around WIlmington. (Port City Daily photo / Benjamin Schachtman)
CSX is closing nearly 30 rail-crossings around Wilmington; the rail company’s contractor says it notified the city on Jan. 3 — but somehow the word didn’t get out. (Port City Daily photo / Benjamin Schachtman)

WILMINGTON — Yesterday’s announcement that CSX would close not a few, but nearly 30 rail-crossings in Wilmington left public officials and residents alike confused and frustrated. CSX’s contractor claims it gave nearly three weeks notice, so why was the city caught off guard?

Related: CSX closing nearly 30 Wilmington rail-crossing intersections, contractor delays could keep them closed indefinitely

Further, CSX contractor Southern Commercial Development said that a breakdown at a subcontractor’s asphalt plant meant there was no timetable for how long it would take to get the rail-crossing intersections open again — information that was apparently news to both Wilmington city and police staff.

So, what happened to the information about the closings — and whose job was it to make sure it got to the authorities and the public?

CSX

CSX is tearing out and replacing 27 rail-crossing intersections, effective closing nearly 30 roads. The company’s contractor for the job, Southern Commercial Development, says it first notified Wilmington on Jan. 3.

Spokeswoman Angela Nelis said she spoke with Dennis Rachocki, an engineer for the city of Wilmington.

“He [said he] would notify the local police, fire, and media,” Nelis said.

Nelis said she sent Rachocki a spreadsheet of closings and dates that day, and a list of detours based on the city’s street grid on Jan. 9.

City of Wilmington

Rachocki confirmed that he had received the information about the closings. He said the information was passed along through “standard internal communications.”

When asked who would be included in these communications, Rachocki said he would have to call back later. He did not.

Wilmington spokeswoman Malissa Talbert said the city has received some information that was incomplete and “had no idea what was going on.”

Talbert said it was CSX’s responsibility to notify the public, not the city’s.

“Notices to the public of work that significantly impacts traffic/roads within the city are generally handled by the agency doing the work (i.e., NCDOT, CFPUA, etc.) and the city will augment that by sharing information through our communication channels,” Talbert said, noting that in this case “the agency is CSX.”

Talbert added, “I don’t know all the particulars of this case (who sent what to whom or when) and the situation was exacerbated by city offices being closed yesterday, but CSX was working on the improvements. I can say that the city shares information from other agencies that impact local roads and we will continue to do so to the extent possible.”

The City of Wilmington posted notice of several individual closings on social media, starting on Thursday, Jan. 17, last week, but did not mention the scale – or duration – of these closures.

Wilmington Police Department

Apparently, neither the Wilmington Police Department (WPD) or Wilmington Fire Department were notified by the City of Wilmington about the closures.

The information about the full scale of the CSX closures, released by WPD on Tuesday afternoon, apparently came from the New Hanover County 911 Center.

According to a WPD spokesperson, WPD was forwarded an email from the 911 center last week, but the email ended up in a spam folder.

Apparently, even the information received by New Hanover County was received in a roundabout way.

According to Kate Murphy, communications coordinator for the county, “we learned that emails were sent to a former 911 employee, who no longer works for the county. Eventually, road closure updates were sent to a current 911 employee, who shared information with law enforcement and emergency personnel as ‘street updates.'”

Murphy said the county has reached out to CSX to make sure they update their contacts.

According to Linda Rawley, the WPD spokeswoman, she received correspondence directly from CSX on Thursday, Jan. 17, noting on a few of the total closures.

Closings

Here is a map and list of the CSX closings, although minor changes in construction dates may occur, according to WPD and CSX.

Tuesday, Jan. 22

  • Princess Place Dr. (near Evans St.) closing on/around Jan. 22 open
  • Clay St. (near Princess Place Dr.) closing on/around Jan. 22 open
  • Henry St. (near Princess Place Dr.) closing on/around Jan. 22
  • Westig Rd. (near Market St.) closing on/around Jan. 22 open

Wednesday, Jan. 23

  • Covil Ave. (near Randall Pkwy.) closing on/around Jan. 23 open
  • Mercer Ave. (near Randall Pkwy.) closing on/around Jan. 23 open
  • Forest Hills Dr. (near Colonial Dr.) closing on/around Jan. 23 open
  • Wrightsville Ave. (near Dawson St.) closing on/around Jan. 23 open
  • River to the Sea Bikeway (near Dawson St.) closing on/around Jan. 23

Thursday, Jan. 24

  • 17th St. (near Marsteller St.) closing on/around Jan. 24
  • 16th St. (near Marsteller St.) closing on/around Jan. 24
  • Marsteller St. (S. 13th St.) closing on/around Jan. 24
  • 13th St. (near Marsteller St.) closing on/around Jan. 24 open, will close again
  • 12th St. (between Marsteller St. & Kidder St.) closing on/around Jan. 24
  • Tenth St. (near Kidder St.) closing on/around Jan. 24
  • Ninth St. (between Marsteller St. & Martin St.) closing on/around Jan. 24
  • Eighth St. (between Martin St. & Kidder St.) closing on/around Jan. 24
  • Seventh St. (between Martin St. & Kidder St.) closing on/around Jan. 24
  • Sixth St./Martin St. (near Stroud Alley) closing on/around Jan. 24
  • Fifth St. (near Martin St.) closing on/around Jan. 24
  • Martin St. (between S. 5th St. & Hooper St.) closing on/around Jan. 24
  • Fourth St. (between Martin St. & Kidder St.) closing on/around Jan. 24

Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at Ben@Localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

Related Articles