Commonwealth Journal

Local News

November 10, 2012

West Columbia Street crossing won’t be closed for at least a month

Somerset —  

Those who often travel over West Columbia Street railroad crossing still have a little more than a month to make alternate travel plans before the crossing is permanently closed.
“We don’t have a date yet for the closing,” said Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler. 
While Girdler said the city hopes to have the crossing closed soon after the new year, he said nothing is set in stone.
Girdler also said the crossing equipment — which has received some repair service recently — cannot be removed until a date is set for the closing. 
The closing is closer to becoming reality after city officials, citing safety issues with he crossing, held a public meeting in September that garnered little feedback from the public. 
The crossing is considered one of the most dangerous on Norfolk Southern’s 20,000-mile railway system. 
“It’s an accident waiting to happen, it’s going to happen, but hopefully we can do some things to avoid it,” Girdler has said in the past about the crossing. 
William Miller, manager of grade crossing safety for Norfolk Southern, and Vince Means, a supervisor with the company who is based in Somerset, emphatically said during the public meeting that the sheer number of reported tractor trailers getting hung up on the crossing in the past two years has proven that the crossing needs to be closed.
“I think we’ve been very fortunate ... we’re running 41 trains a day over Columbia Street crossing on average,” Miller said. “There will come a time if we don’t close the crossing that something very bad could happen.” 
Means later said that the Columbia Street crossing could see as many as 50 to 60 trains on a busy day. 
Girdler has said he’s been told by witnesses, especially those who work at the businesses located just below the crossing, that the number is easily at 20-25 within a six-month period.

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