Efforts to close a section of River Road in Hannibal gained the endorsement of the city’s Traffic Committee on Monday.

Efforts to close a section of River Road in Hannibal gained the endorsement of the city’s Traffic Committee on Monday. That recommendation will now be forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Commission, which has the authority to close streets, or in the case of River Road, roughly 650 feet of pavement.

Under the proposal up for consideration, the dead-end road would be closed north of the Board of Public Works’ pump house.

The only traffic impacted by the closure would be the vehicles driven by railroad workers stationed at the Norfolk Southern's railroad bridge that crosses the Mississippi River.

“It’s not really going to hinder anybody, but it will have to be a ‘walk-in’ for the railroad,” said Brian Chaplin, chairman of the Traffic Committee.

According to Chaplin, the railroad has no inkling of what the city would like to do.

“We haven’t contacted the railroad for the simple fact that we’re going to make our decision today (Monday). Then we’ll contact the railroad and get their take on it,” he said.

During Monday’s meeting, it was suggested that the section of River Road the city wants to close could be given to the railroad, provided the burden of future road maintenance in that area be the railroad’s.

Mark Rees, city engineer, expressed reservations about giving the property to the railroad in the event the Parks Department might need it in the future. He proposed allowing the railroad to utilize it as a “private access” road, provided it took on maintenance duties.


Growing concerns


Consideration for closing the road has gained momentum in recent years after significant landslides have occurred, leaving the city to dig out the mud.

“It’s so dangerous,” said Leon Wallace, during Monday’s Traffic Committee meeting. “It keeps falling every time it rains.”

Wallace is particularly concerned that a follow-up slide could occur while workers are cleaning up mud.

“A slide while they’re there could push a loader onto the railroad tracks,” he said.

“It (hillside) is going to be coming down soon,” said Chaplin as he showed a photo of one of the slide areas to Traffic Committee members.

Chaplin stressed that his primary concern is safety.

“We don’t want anybody hurt down there,” he said. “With the trains coming through and the vibration of the ground, the hillside with the slope the way it is, and not holding like it’s supposed to, I just think somebody is going to get in trouble down there. I don’t want anybody buried.”

The city’s other concern is the amount of time it has invested reopening the road.

“We’ve spent a lot of time on it and have put a lot of equipment on it,” said Chaplin.

Wallace noted that some vehicles were trapped at the railroad bridge for “two or three” days following a slide in 2013.

Chaplin anticipates the city's insurer, the Missouri Intergovermental Risk Management Association (MIRMA), will one day tell the city to “fix it (the hillside) or shut it (River Road) down.” Chaplin cited the situation that faced the Parks and Recreation Department after a landslide in late May of last year covered a portion of the southern leg of the North River Road Trail in Hannibal's Riverview Park.

Citing the cost of reopening the trail and the likelihood of another landslide, Andy Dorian, director of the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department, announced in September that the section of trail that was covered by dirt, rock and trees would not be reopened. In compliance with MIRMA recommendations, the Parks Department put up four concrete blocks near the slide area, plus a sign indicating danger.