The Gazette

Medina, Ohio

Tuesday May 7, 2002

By: Oliva Rasul, Staff Writer

Medina – Last year, Medina County ranked first in the state for having the highest number of railroad-crossing accidents.

Although none of the eight accidents involved fatalities, the incidents were significant enough to attract the attention of Vicky Moore of Canal Fulton.

Moore and her husband, Dennis, are founders of the Angels on Track Foundation, which reimburses local governments for railroad improvement projects.

The Stark County residents know too well the importance of installing safety upgrades at railroad crossings across the state to prevent accidents.

Its has been about seven years since the Moore’s son was killed in a train-car collision.

"The fact this it’s been seven years doesn’t make it easier," said Vicky Moore.

The Moores’ 16 year old son, Ryan, died in 1995 when a Conrail train slammed into their car at a crossing that had no warning lights or gates.

Two other teenagers died in that accident; Alyson Ley, 16, of Clinton, and Joshua White, 17, of Canal Fulton.

Ryan’s brother, Jason, and passengers Jennifer Helms and Rebecca White were injured in the accident on Deerfield Avenue on the Stark-Wayne county line.

Since the accident, the Moores have been crusaders in the effort to increase awareness that the presence of warning devices can save lives and warn drivers of oncoming trains.

"Because we know exactly why our son had died," said Vicky Moore. "Not enough is done in the area of railroad safety and those responsible don’t consider it a priority until someone is killed or injured, but then it’s too late."

The Moores established the foundation with the punitive damages money they received from a lawsuit against Conrail. They received approximately $5.4 million, after attorney fees.

Medina County officials are hoping the foundation will assist them in making the railroads in this county safer.
Monday, the commissioners took the first step in initiating a county railroad task force.

Commissioner Pat Geissman said by setting up a local task force, she hopes the safety improvements will save lives, prevent injuries and reduce traffic-related accidents.

The most recent fatality in the county was in 1995, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Melvin Stotler, 46, of Harrisville Township, was killed after his truck apparently stalled on the railroad tracks on Jamison Road and was struck by a train.

Moore said she is pleased that Medina County officials are being proactive in trying to prevent railroad related tragedies.

She added a requirement for possible grant funding from her foundation is the establishment of task forces to identify and locally prioritize all grade crossing for safety.

Moore pointed out that there are seven active task forces throughout the state, and Medina’s would be the eighth.

Geissman said she would chair the local task force.

The task force would work to identify unsafe or potentially hazardous crossings and find solutions to them using funds from the foundation and state agencies, such as the PUCO, Geissman said.

Geissman said the task force would include representatives from the county engineer’s department, cities, villages, townships, sheriff’s office, the state highway patrol, county Emergency Management Agency and the Ohio Department of Transportation and residents of the county.

Moore said the foundation awards reimbursement grants to local highway authorities for safety upgrades representing up to 30% of the public share under the State Funded Program, not to exceed $40,000 for each upgrade project.

The standard apportionment for an active warning device project is a 90/10 split to the local authority and the railroad, respectively.
Moore noted the cost for installation of a crossing gate starts at $150,000.

She explained the task force would classify crossings using a formula that takes into consideration the following: the amount of train and vehicle traffic, accidents at the crossings, visibility and clear lines of sight at crossings and existing safety devices.
The task force then reviews applications for the PUCO, which oversees railroad safety funding.

Moore said the foundation then reviews applications and decides which municipalities to refund their local share of upgrading safety features.

Geissman, who hopes to get the task force under way soon, is asking that anyone interested in serving on the panel contact her at 330-722-99208. She said she hopes some of the panel members would have some knowledge of railroads and/or transportation


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