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Warning to St. Pete motorists: 22nd Ave. N will be blocked all week

Repairs to a CSX railroad crossing near I-275 will take several days, and city officials are not happy about the lack of advance notice.
Work at a CSX railroad crossing in Tampa caused major traffic problems last week. A similar problem will hit St. Petersburg starting Monday, when repairs to a railroad crossing on 22nd Avenue N near I-275 will block traffic for several days. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
Work at a CSX railroad crossing in Tampa caused major traffic problems last week. A similar problem will hit St. Petersburg starting Monday, when repairs to a railroad crossing on 22nd Avenue N near I-275 will block traffic for several days. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times]

ST. PETERSBURG — Officials in Tampa aren’t the only ones claiming they were railroaded by CSX Transportation’s surprise repairs to local train tracks.

Just days after the company’s repairs created a mess of blocked roads and drawn-out detours throughout the South Tampa peninsula, CSX Transportation said it plans to conduct more “emergency repairs” to the railroad crossing along 22nd Avenue N, between Interstate 275 and 25th Street, according to the Pinellas County Public Works department.

The work will block a portion of a major east-west artery in the city for several days.

According to a spokesman for the city of St. Petersburg, that portion of 22nd Avenue North will be closed from the time work begins at 6 a.m. Monday until 5 p.m. on Friday, when the company expects repairs to be completed.

It’s more of a heads up than Mayor Jane Castor said she received from the company last week, when more than a dozen unexpected railroad repairs launched simultaneously at some of Tampa’s busiest crossings derailed the entire city’s Wednesday morning commute.

RELATED: After South Tampa traffic jams, officials say the city needs a better bullhorn

Still, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman let off some steam on his Twitter account Saturday afternoon, claiming CSX Transportation gave his administration “zero business days to prepare our residents for a major street closure” and calling the situation “very disappointing and frustrating.”

An email thread sent to the Tampa Bay Times by a CSX Transportation spokeswoman on Saturday shows that partner company Southern Commercial Development LLC notified city officials of the impending road closure in an email sent around 11:30 a.m. on Friday by Railroad Division Assistant Manager Erika Elmore.

In her email, Elmore explained that emergency repairs have to be made not only to the 22nd Avenue crossing, but also to a second crossing on South Bayview Boulevard, between State Street West and Marlborough Street in Oldsmar.

That road will be closed from 6 a.m. on Wednesday to about 5 p.m. on Saturday, Elmore’s email said.

The work on both crossings was scheduled “under an emergency basis” and will result in a “total closure, meaning there will be no access across the tracks until the crossing is reopened,” the email said.

“These two crossings must be repaired due to an abundance of complaints received from citizens,” Elmore’s email said. “This will necessitate rerouting traffic. Signage will be in place marking detour routes."

Later Saturday afternoon, Kriseman tweeted that “an official advisory will be shared shortly with additional details (including) suggested (alternative) routes. Please plan accordingly.”

Wednesday’s railroad repairs in Tampa were mostly finished by the end of the day, yet officials with the city of Tampa were quick to blame CSX for not following the city’s permitting procedures. It took city staff several hours to put up road signs alerting drivers of blocked intersections and directing them to alternate routes.

Jean Duncan, Tampa’s Infrastructure and Mobility administrator, asked the city’s planning and development officials to provide a report on why the meltdown occurred, and embraced City Council’s request to hire new public information officers tasked with communicating transportation issues to Tampa residents.

According to a spokeswoman for Tampa Mayor Castor, the city has already planned to hire a new public information officer as it embarks on a $2.9 billion infrastructure plan to repair aging water and wastewater pipes buried beneath city streets.

On Thursday, CSX released the following statement addressing Tampa’s weekday road closure: “CSX apologizes for any impacts the closures may have caused to Tampa residents on Wednesday. We are investigating this further to determine where improvements in the process can be made.”

For a complete list of road closures in Pinellas County, visit pinellascounty.org/emergency/road_closures.htm

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