High-Risk RR Crossing Tabbed for Upgrades

The Independent


By: Stephen Huba


A Navarre Road railroad crossing identified as the ninth worst in the state will be upgraded with gates and lights by next February.

The south Massillon crossing, just east of Erie Street, only has crossbucks and has been the site of three crashes since 1993, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. A 2005 accident resulted in an injury.

Its ranking as the ninth worst out of 6,000 public crossings recently qualified it for funding from the Federal Highway Administration.

“The aim is to upgrade every crossing in the state,” said Stu Nicholson, spokesman for the Ohio Rail Development Commission. “If there’s a particularly high number of accidents, that will tend to drive the ranking of a crossing much higher on the priority list – or if it’s a crossing not protected by active warning devices.”

The Navarre Road crossing was one of seven recently targeted by the railroad commission for improvements. In each case, the responsible railroad was directed to install flashing lights and road gates.

The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway, which owns the crossing, has a year to do the work and must submit site plans and cost estimates for the project by May 28. The cost of a standard upgrade is estimated at $200,000, Nicholson said.

Crossings that are eligible for federal funding are selected based on several criteria, including number of accidents, volume of vehicle traffic and volume of railroad traffic, said PUCO spokeswoman Julie Daubenmire.

About four trains use the Navarre Road tracks every day, while vehicle traffic is about 7,000 a day, according to a PUCO inspection report. The crossing has been inspected four times in the past six years, once in 2004 as a follow-up to a complaint. The most recent inspection was on Dec. 6.

“The inspectors determine what a crossing needs to come up to a better safety standard,” Nicholson said. “They also become the project manager for that project. We monitor that project all the way through to completion.”

Since 1997, the state has upgrade 2,000 railroad crossings through a joint program of the PUCO and the railroad commission. In 2005, the PUCO ordered railroad companies to perform safety upgrades at more than 100 crossings throughout the state.

Vicky Moore, a former Canal Fulton resident whose son was killed in a 1995 train accident, said Ohio’s system of upgrading railroad crossings is “reactive” and too slow.

“Of those 6,000 public crossings, only 2,333 have gates. That’s 37 percent,” Moore said. “Most of the crossings in Ohio are not gated and have sight obstructions.”

Moore’s 16-year-old son, Ryan, and two of his friends were killed in the Lawrence Township accident. The tragedy prompted Moore and her husband, Denny, to start the Angels on Track Foundation, a non-profit railroad safety organization.

The foundation has been instrumental in pushing for safer railroad crossings in Ohio, including several in Stark County. The crossing where the Moores’ son was killed eventually did get gates and lights. But in the year that it took to make the upgrades, four more people were killed there, Vicky Moore said.

“It’s a flawed system,” she said.

Angels on Track has received two dangerous crossing reports about the Navarre Road crossing through its Web site, www.angelsontrack. org, she said.
The Navarre Road crossing is not far from another unsafe crossing – the R.J. Corman Railroad tracks on Warmington Road, where, last summer, a 70-year-old man was injured while driving his pickup truck.

The man told police he did not see the train coming because his view was obscured by trees. The crossing does not have gates or lights, only crossbucks.


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