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Railroad crossings concern in Mon City

| Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

Tom Caudill remembers hearing the whistle blow one November night in 1952.

The shrill blast notified people in Collinsburg that a train had struck a school bus.

“And that crossing was just like this crossing (in Monongahela) that I'm talking about,” the city councilman said.

“It had no lights and no crossing arm. And some kids were killed in that accident. That's something that will stay with me forever.”

Caudill said safety is the reason the city wants Norfolk Southern Railroad to improve crossings that provide access to the Noble J. Dick Aquatorium.

Councilwoman Claudia Williams said she agrees the area should be improved, but said fencing a two-block area would improve safety by controlling pedestrian traffic.

Caudill, Williams, Councilman Bill Hess Sr. and Mayor Bob Kepics met Thursday morning at the aquatorium with officials from the Public Utility Commission and Norfolk Southern.

Donora Mayor John Lignelli, who serves with Caudill on the Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority Board, helped arrange the meeting.

Norfolk Southern officials proposed to expand the pedestrian crossing at Third Street, behind McDonald's and next to newly-constructed comfort building, to the left of the former Patterson Supply building.

Safety lights and a crossing arm would be installed and the sidewalk widened. Crossings at Second and Fourth streets would be closed. Caudill said that with events over the summer, the July 4 fireworks show and the upcoming Halloween parade, the aquatorium drew more than 30,000 people.

“That's not a well-lit area and trains go up and down that way all the time,” Caudill said. “With mass number of people, we felt this was a safety issue for the city. That's an accident waiting to happen.”

Caudill said Norfolk Southern has agreed to pay for the roughly $1 million crossing project.

Caudill said he plans to bring up the issue at council's Nov. 13 meeting. Council must approve the work before the yearlong project can begin.

Williams said the issue is not new, but claimed the rail company is now being cooperative to the city's needs. She expects council to discuss it at a Nov. 12 work session, the day before voting on the project.

Williams said opening the crossing at Third Street would isolate the former Patterson Supply Co. property and make that area a main thoroughfare for aquatorium events.

“We would have to have two-lane traffic going in two directions at Third Street,” Williams said. “And you'd have event-goers on foot crossing traffic.”

Williams said fencing the area between Second and Fourth streets would funnel pedestrian traffic into crossing at that area.

She said pedestrians now cross the train tracks all along a multi-block area, creating safety concerns.

“If you fenced between Second and Fourth streets, I think that would solve 85 to 90 percent of the problem,” Williams said.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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