Sandusky Register


By: Carol Harper-Staff Writer

Norwalk-Parents of a 16-year-old boy killed in a 1995 car-train accident asked Huron County Commissioners to set up a volunteer committee to study railroad crossing upgrades.

Dennis and Vicky Moore, Canal Fulton, set up the Angels on Track Foundation with $5.3 million in punitive damages they were awarded by a jury in a civil lawsuit after the death of their son, Ryan Moore, according to a story in the Canton Repository.

The accident was March 25, 1995, in Stark County. The crossing is on a tree-lined road at the bottom of a 15-degree hill and was only marked with crossbucks, no gates, lights, bells or stop signs, Mrs. Moore said. Ryan's brother and two friends were seriously injured. The other three teenagers in the car were killed instantly, according to news reports.

The state determined the crossing was dangerous before the accident, the Moores said. "I feel (crossing upgrades are) not a priority for (state officials) unless somebody gets killed," Mrs. Moore said, "And then it's too late."

So the Moores set up the foundation and now travel to different counties. They ask local officials to set up committees to do the background work-such as traffic counts and documentation of the crossings with digital photographs-and prioritize the need for upgrades at each crossing in the county, Mrs. Moore said.

Wayne, Stark, and Delaware counties already set up committees with 6-8 members and have meetings, which are always public, Mrs. Moore said. She said it takes one year to gather information and apply for grants.

With detailed information in hand, the country can petition state and federal sources for financial help with crossing improvements, she said.

"My husband and I didn't think about crossings the way we do now, but it took the deaths of one of our sons and two of this friends," Mrs. Moore said. "We're trying to turn his death into something positive. We don't enjoy doing this-I'm going to cry as soon as I leave here. It's very emotional."

The railroads should be held accountable Mrs. Moore said.

"They feel it's our responsibility to protect ourselves from their trains and their crossings, and that's wrong," Mrs. Moore said. "They should take responsibility for their trains."

Ten to 15 crossings per year are upgraded with crossing gates and lights in a state program administered by the Public Utilities Commission, said Rob Marvin, chief of the PUCO Railroad Division.

Gates and lights cost $90,000-$200,000, with an average of $150,000, Marvin said. State and local money pays for 90 percent of the upgrade.

Marvin said the amount of funding that comes from the railroad was established by the Supreme Court.

"In the old days before the commission began ordering grade crossing upgrades, anyone could file a complaint about a dangerous crossing, he said. "They would hold ahearing in the area. On no occasion did they find a crossing to be not dangerous. The state shared the cost and ordered the railroad to pay a percentage."

Then the Supreme Court made the ruling based on archaic laws that the railroad could only be ordered to pay 10 percent of the cost, Marvin said.

"We don't do that anymore," he said. "The locality couldn't come up with their share, so nothing got done."

PUCO negotiates agreements with the railroads on crossing improvements. Also, 80-100 grade crossing upgrades in the state per year are paid for through federal highway dollars, Marvin said.

The Angels on Track Foundation matches local funds for crossing upgrades up to one-third of the total cost of the project, Mrs. Moore said.

"We limited the amount so that the state won't quit, "Mrs. Moore said. "We don't want them to back out of their commitment."

Huron County Commission Vice President Amy Hookway said if another industry announced an expansion, they might come to the government for tax incentives, but the company would pay for the expansion of its plant with its own money. Crossing gates and lights and grade separations should be paid for mostly through railroad dollars, she said.


©2006 The Angels on Track Foundation. All rights reserved. | Trademark & Copyright Notice | Site Map