Rail Group Wants Brush Cleared Near Crossings

The (Canton) Repository

Thursday, April 28, 2005

By: Edd Pritchard – Staff Writer

SALINEVILLE – The Angels on Track Foundation is pushing to make railroad companies clear away brush, weeds and trees growing along tracks near crossings.

The brush can obstruct a driver’s ability to check for oncoming trains. If railroad tracks are obstructed, there could be accidents.

Vicky and Dennis Moore, the foundation’s trustees, will hand-deliver letters to Ohio legislators next week asking them to make certain the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio enforces state law requiring railroad companies to remove obstructions near crossings.

“We feel that this law is not being enforced,” Vicky Moore said. Because the PUCO isn’t enforcing the law, railroads aren’t abiding, she said.

The PUCO disagrees.

Field representatives check crossings where accidents occur, and try to make a visual inspection of every crossing each year, said Shana Eiselstein, a PUCO spokeswoman. Every September, the agency asks school superintendents around Ohio to have school bus drivers report problem crossings in their communities.

Angels on Track contends the effort isn’t enough.

The foundation cites a study of 16 Huron County crossings that have no gates. The survey found that 15 of the sites had obstructions, the Moores said. That information will be shared with legislators.

“How is a motorists supposed to be able to see if it’s safe to cross the tracks if they can’t see down the tracks?” Vicky Moore said.

State laws require railroads to clear brush, trees and other plants for a 600-foot stretch in both directions from a crossing. The Moores believe that most municipalities aren’t aware of the rule.

Eiselstein said Angels on Track should share details collected in the Huron County study with PUCO officials.

She said obstruction problems are routinely reported to the agency, which passes the information on to railroad companies. The railroads respond when told of a problem, Eiselstein said.

During 2004, seven vehicle-train crossing crashes were reported to PUCO at railroad crossings in Stark County. Plant obstructions weren’t a factor in any of the crashes, Eiselstein said.

Vehicle-train crashes

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio compiles data on vehicle crashes at public railroad crossings in the state. An official report will be released next month. The unofficial tally for Stark County in 2004:

Total - 7
Fatalities - 2
Injuiry - 1
Non-injury - 4

The Federal Railroad Administration compiles an annual report of vehicle-train crashes at public and private crossings in the country. There were 19 crashes in Stark County from 2001 through 2004.

2004 - 9
2003 - 4
2002 - 3
2001 - 3


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