The Repository

By EDD PRITCHARD Repository staff writer

July 17, 2002

PLAIN TWP. — Railroad and Stark County officials hope they have made the right moves to reduce the danger of serious accidents and deaths at railroad crossings.

The latest improvement has been installing lights and gates on Middlebranch Avenue and Diamond Street NE, and closing William Street NE. The changes improve safety at three crossings along Wheeling & Erie’s main line between Canton and Hartville.

“This is the ultimate answer to rail-highway crossing safety,” Larry , Wheeling & Lake Erie chairman and chief executive officer, said of the decision to close William Street.

William was a narrow strip that ran from Middlebranch Avenue east toward Dawnwood Avenue NE. Grace Brethren Church of Middlebranch a handful of houses line William Street. In the past, they had been against closing the street. But church officials agreed to live with closing William Street, and neighbors also went along, Parson said.

Reducing one crossing made it less expensive to install gates and flashing lights at the other crossings. The project cost $190,000, with federal money covering 80 percent of the bill. Wheeling & Lake Erie paid the remaining 20 percent and is responsible for maintenance.

Before the upgrade, flashing lights warned motorists crossing at Middlebranch Avenue, while crossbucks marked the crossings at Diamond and William streets.

On Tuesday morning, railroad managers, members of the Stark County Railroad Safety Task Force, township trustees and state rail officials dedicated the crossing improvements with the unveiling of a mounted plaque at the end of William Street. The plaque thanks Donald R. Watkins, former county commissioner and township trustee, for his work with the railroad task force. Parsons presented another plaque for Watkins to his brother, Canton Mayor Richard D. Watkins.

The railroad safety task force started in 1998, spurred by the Angels on Track Foundation formed by Dennis and Vicky Moore, whose son died in 1995 at a rail crossing on the Wayne-Stark county border.

“They deserve credit,” Parsons said of Angels on Track. “It really energized the county.”

Donald Watkins, who now lives in Las Vegas, took the lead once the task force formed and helped the different private and public entities for improvements, his brother said.


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