CUMBERLAND — Mayor Brian Grim feels that the likely scenario for the underpass beneath the railroad tracks at Queen City Drive will be the closing of the tunnel that he describes as a “constant nuisance.”
Members of the Downtown Development Commission had recently protested the idea of closing what they feel is an important access route for those who live in neighborhoods on the east side of the tracks.
An idea was brought up by DDC members to consider working with the city to assist in maintaining the underpass.
“The DDC has not reached out to me. If they want to take over responsibility, I’d be open to hearing about it,” said Grim.
Sandi Saville, DDC chair, said the commission has not done anything to contact the city at this point.
Grim said he thinks the task of managing the underpass is more work and investment than it may be worth.
“I think (the DDC) may come to the same conclusions we have — it’s too much for an organization their size,” said Grim.
Grim said he does not want to bulldoze the tunnel.
CSX, which the city has been looking to for help, may have ownership rights for the portion beneath the tracks.
“There are utilities and things there. We don’t want to doze it,” said Grim.
Grim said they are exploring their options.
“We are looking at ways to temporarily close it,” he said.
“It’s not a good reason to close it, because you don’t want to take care of it,” said DDC member Doug Schwab during a July 13 commission meeting that included the topic.
DDC member and downtown manager Ed Mullaney feels the underpass is important for city residents who want to access downtown.
“I think it would be a mistake to close it. There are people in those neighborhoods across the tracks that are contributing to downtown,” said Mullaney.
The underpass has been plagued by the presence of trash, bottles, graffiti, standing water and loitering for years.
A citizen attempted to use it recently and contacted the Times-News to report what he called its “despicable” condition.
Despite the city having video cameras installed in recent years to monitor the underpass, Grim said it always returns to a poor condition.
“It’s been a constant nuisance and that’s why I want to close it,” said Grim.
Having police and maintenance crews available at all hours for the underpass has proved to be difficult for a city staff that is already stretched thin.
DDC members offered up ideas of closing the underpass at night or placing gates with sensors at the entrance ways that would open the underpass only when trains are present.
City officials said that municipalities have opted for above-ground walking bridges in recent years because of the difficulties in maintaining underpasses.
Greg Larry can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.