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Derry officials pledge to work on stopping another death on railroad tracks

| Friday, June 15, 2012, 7:20 a.m.

In his 53 years as a Derry resident, Chuck Derito said no train accident there impacted him like the July 16 death of 15-year-old Douglas E. "D.J." Albright Jr.

Derito's late father, Charles J. Derito, was a Pennsylvania Railroad engineer who accidentally struck and killed another 15-year-old boy trying to cross the borough's railroad tracks in 1971.

"I was 15 years old myself then," said Derito, 53, of W. 2nd Avenue, on Monday at a public safety meeting held by Mayor Susan Bortz and borough council. "That's why this recent tragedy really hits home. It's still happening."

Council President Allen Skopp told Derito and roughly 20 other residents in attendance that he and Bortz are working on a strategy to address railroad safety.

"It needs to be addressed, and it needs to be addressed fast so we can have something in place to try and avoid another tragedy like the one we just had," Skopp said.

Albright was getting out of the path of an eastbound train in the borough when he was struck and killed by a freight train traveling in the opposite direction.

By next Monday's agenda planning session, Skopp and Bortz plan to introduce ways the borough will seek local, county, state and federal funding to finance one of two options to improve pedestrian safety near the tracks.

The first involves installing up to three graded rail crossings with locking fences activated electronically when trains are approaching. The second involves a handicapped-accessible, overhead walkway with ramps.

Because the cost of the each crossing is an average of $250,000 and the walkway could cost more than $2 million, grant funding is a necessity, Skopp said.

"We're going full throttle on this. I'd like to have funding in place by the end of the year if possible," Skopp said.

Skopp and Bortz have tentatively scheduled a meeting for Aug. 12 with officials of Norfolk Southern officials to discuss both the feasibility of the two targeted options and train safety education at Derry Area School District.

Karen Werner, Albright's grandmother, asked the borough for help in raising funds to help pay the costs of her grandson's funeral. Those interested in presenting a fundraiser or making donations can contact the borough office at 724-694-2030.

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