Commonwealth Journal

News Live

September 14, 2012

Little interest shown in closing of railroad crossing

Somerset —  

City officials were expecting a flood of public interest in the possible closing of an oft-used railroad crossing situated in the heart of Somerset, but they got little more than a trickle during this week’s public hearing on the matter.
“I wish we’d had more people here from the neighborhood because they’re likely to be most affected,” said Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler during Wednesday’s public hearing, held to garner comments from the public about the possible closing of the West Columbia Street railroad crossing. 
Four community members, along with six city council members, were on hand Wednesday to hear comments from Norfolk Southern Railway representatives about the crossing — 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,” said Girdler. 
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 that the sheer number of reported tractor trailers getting hung up on the crossing in the past two years — eight in all, not including an incident on Monday — 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. 
The eight reported truck hang-ups at that crossing comes from the number of times the incidents have been reported through the railway’s information number. Girdler 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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