Medina Gazette

July 2, 2002

MEDINA — The alarming statistic the county ranked first in the state in the number of railroad-crossing accidents has moved county commissioners to set up a railroad task force.

Commissioners on Monday approved the measure, making Medina the eighth county in the state to have such a panel.

Commissioner Pat Geissman said the task force would work to identify unsafe or potentially hazardous crossings and find solutions to them using funds from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Recently, the PUCO approved funding to install flashing lights and gates at three local unmarked crossings: Columbia Road in Lafayette Township, Friendsville Road in Westfield Township and Firestone Road in Homer Township.

The upgrades, estimated to cost $150,000 each, would be federally funded through the Federal Railroad Administration, said Matt Butler, public information officer for the PUCO.

The improvements must be made within the year, Butler said.

Mark Hartman, traffic technician for the county engineer's office, said new stop signs have been placed at the Friendsville and Firestone crossings. Stop signs already are in place at the Columbia Road crossing.

Meanwhile, Geissman, who will chair the local task force, said she hopes the safety improvements will save lives, prevent injuries and reduce traffic-related accidents.

She said the task force would include the following volunteers: Nino Piccoli, Medina service director; Caesar Carrino, Wadsworth mayor; York Township Trustee Frank Ehrman, township representative; Sheriff Neil Hassinger; Lt. Cory Davies, of the state highway patrol; Dave Miller, county engineer; Will Koran, county superintendent; and county residents Lenny Conetsco; Lee Geissman, the commissioner's husband; and David Riffer.

Conetsco and Lee Geissman have more than 20 years of railroad experience, Pat Geissman noted.

The commissioner also said the goal of the task force is to meet once a month in order to qualify for any type of funding from the Angels on Track Foundation, which reimburses local governments for railroad improvement projects.

Geissman said she is hoping the foundation will assist the task force in making the railroads in the county safer.

Dennis and Vicky Moore, the Stark County residents who founded the organization, know too well the importance of installing safety upgrades at railroad crossings. It has been about seven years since the Moores' son was killed in a train-car collision.

The Moores' 16-year-old son, Ryan, died in 1995 when a Conrail train slammed into the family 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.

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.

Vicky Moore said the foundation awards reimbursement grants to local highway authorities for safety upgrades representing up to 30 percent of the public share under a state-funded program, not to exceed $40,000 for each upgrade project.

Rasul may be reached at 330-721-4049.


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