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PUC says railroad crossing should have lights, gates

August 03, 2006|by DON AINES

GREENCASTLE, PA. - A railroad crossing in Antrim Township that was the scene of a fatal accident last month should have lights and gates installed, a project that could be completed within the next year, according to a Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission spokeswoman.

A field conference was held Monday at the Norfolk Southern railroad crossing on Milnor Road with representatives from the railroad, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Antrim Township, Embarq and the PUC, spokeswoman Cyndi Page said Wednesday.

"Everyone agreed it did need an upgrade," Page said. The crossing now has only crossbuck warning signs on either side of the tracks. Those would be augmented with flashing lights and short-arm gates to block one lane on each side of the tracks, she said.

"We are pleased the PUC is moving forward with improvements to that crossing," Antrim Township Administrator Ben Thomas Jr. said. In July, Thomas said the township had written PennDOT in 1999 and again last year about making improvements to the crossing.

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That was under consideration before the July 18 accident in which a train struck a car, killing the passenger, 26-year-old Jessie Hykes of Waynesboro, Pa., and seriously injuring the driver, 19-year-old Misty Beers of Greencastle, PennDOT spokesman Mike Crochunis said.

A PennDOT grade crossing engineer had recommended that the remainder of Franklin County's annual federal allocation for railroad crossing improvements be set aside for Milnor Road, Crochunis said Wednesday. A letter to the PUC requesting the field conference had gone out in early July and the meeting at the crossing was later scheduled for July 31, he said.

"We fund the project and Norfolk Southern contracts out the work," Crochunis said. There is about $75,000 remaining from the county's allocation for railroad crossing improvements, he said.

Crochunis estimated the cost of putting in lights and crossing gates at $165,000 to $200,000. Last month, PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said the county will have $217,000 available for crossing improvements in 2007.

Crochunis said there were no accidents at the intersection going back to the late 1970s until last year when there were two, one on Nov. 1 involving a milk truck. However, rail and vehicle traffic at the intersection has increased in recent years, he said.

"There's a procedure we need to go through ... but because all parties are in agreement, it'll probably go more smoothly," Page said of the crossing improvements. A formal decision by the PUC still has to be made, she said.

"Had the parties not agreed ... It's then assigned to an administrative law judge and it goes to hearings," Page said.

The lights and crossing gates should be in place by June 2007, Page said.

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