The Railroad Safety Taskforce Holds 100th Meeting

Medina County Living

By Angela Huston
Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013

May 1 was a landmark day for the Medina Railroad Safety Taskforce as it held its 100th meeting since its inception in 2002. Medina County Commissioner Pat Geissman had been moved by the actions of Vickie and Dennis Moore, who established the Angels on the Tracks Foundation after their son was killed at a railroad crossing. Shortly thereafter, she received a phone call from Medina resident David Riffer expressing concerns about areas of the River Styx trestle that looked dangerous.

That expressed concern, along with the information that Medina County has 108 railroad crossings and more vehicle/crossing accidents than any other county in the state, was enough of an incentive for her to form the local taskforce and look into the problem.

Geissman formed the taskforce with key county people – school officials, state highway and sheriff agents, concerned residents, railroad workers, city planning department people, transportation department members, emergency management individuals, city service directors – and set about the job of investigating the sites and making those at risk safer.

The taskforce was told the River Styx site had passed inspection, but they were unable to get a copy of the report. After much red tape, they proved there were possible safety threats and finally got a grant to improve the situation.

The Bonita Road crossing was the most challenging. The team was originally turned down because it was said the problems were too difficult to overcome, but the persistent taskforce was ultimately successful. Geissman said, “This is not a group to say no to!”

Members of the group spent a year walking the tracks at every crossing, photographing all the sites and gathering information before enlisting the assistance of the PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio), which became instrumental in helping the taskforce accomplish its goal of making all the crossings safer.

Each member of the taskforce – Pat Geissman, Will Koran, Nino Piccoli, David Riffer, Lee Geissman, Jeff Harraman, Rob Henwood, Rob Smykal, Pam Vereb, Adam Friedrick, Matt Hiscock, Peggy Folk, and Pat Crouch - identified ways they and their organizations could collectively work through the issues, and were able to take appropriate measures to solve the problems and provide greater safety to the community at these sites.

Also attending the meeting from Columbus were Milan Orbovich, Director, Transportation Department, Randall Schumacher, Supervisor, Rail Division, Transportation Department, and Julie Kaercher (ORDC). The three agreed Medina County serves as a role model for the entire state; they wish other counties would find leadership to follow its example and do this.

To date, 72 of the 108 crossings have been improved, 47 of which have been 100 percent done through federal funds. Another 25 crossings have had lights, gates or updated circuitry improved through state funds with the help of the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC). More than eight million dollars has come back into Medina County for railroad improvements. The PUCO has supplied an additional $400,000 in funding, and ORDC has supplied $3.3 million towards projects.

The taskforce has made significant strides, but it does not consider its work to be done yet. They are a dedicated group of individuals who remain active and are determined to continue working towards completing their original goal to make all 108 railroad crossings in the county safe.




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