Task Force Lists Worst Rail Crossings



Repository staff writer

CANTON -- A railroad crossing at Price Street in northern Lexington Township is the most dangerous in the county, according to the Stark County Railroad Safety Task Force.

The spot topped a list of 20 railroad crossings that the task force has ranked by considering existing safety devices, visibility, curves in the road, the amount of train and auto traffic, and accidents at the crossings.

The Price Street crossing at the eastern edge of Limaville, near Route 183, has seen a spike in train traffic -- from 26 trains a day to 44 -- since CSX and Norfolk Southern acquired Conrail.

Train traffic that used to run through Canton now passes the Price crossing, where trains travel 60 miles per hour on the Norfolk Southern line, according to task force members.

The crossing has warning signs but no gates or flashing lights.

But without high accident rates at crossings, task force members say state officials often won't use federal funds to foot the bill to improve crossings like Price and others in Stark County.

"Just because the crossing doesn't have a death or something like that doesn't mean it's not important enough to have gates or flashers," said Ken Groves, a task force member and a traffic technician for the city of Canton.

If communities can provide 30 percent of a project's cost, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the Ohio Rail Development Commission will use federal money to contribute 60 percent, and the railroad company will have to chip in the rest.

But communities often can't afford to provide their share, according to Stephen Bryan, co-chairman of the task force and a traffic engineer for the city of Canton.

Task force members have sent letters to villages, cities and townships where the ranked crossings are located, making those officials aware of the state funding formula and funding through the Angels on Track Foundation.

The foundation was founded by Dennis and Vicky Moore, whose son died in an auto accident at a crossing on the border of Stark and Wayne counties.

Angels on Track, which established the task force about two years ago, wanted the local ranking, according to Bryan.

Angels on Track "felt that the people of Stark County knew their crossings better than someone in Columbus," Bryan said, "and they want to make sure the people in Stark County have a voice on which (crossings) weâre going to upgrade."

In 1997, Stark County had the most accidents and deaths at railroad crossings, according to Groves.

The county is now ranked sixth by the Public Utilities Commission, according to Groves. Stark County has the most public railroad crossings -- 238 -- of any county in the state, he said.

A crossing on Forty Corners Street in Jackson Township, just west of Erie Avenue, has been ranked sixth by the task force, and it has funding in place. Improvements will be done late this year or early next year, according to Groves.

The state wouldn't pay the total cost for improvements at the crossing, because the state hadn't ranked it high enough. But Jackson Township provided $48,000, enough to get the state and railroad company to pay for the rest.

Angels on Track will reimburse Jackson Township for $32,000 of its share.


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