July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Fatal crossing in Columbia Station gets a stop sign

COLUMBIA STATION — Flashing stop signs were installed Thursday morning at the railroad crossing on Boston Road where five Brunswick High School teenagers were in a fatal June 3 crash, and plans are moving forward to level the crossing.

The stop signs are in addition to caution signs installed about a week after the crash.

A pickup drives over the Boston Road railroad crossing in Columbia Station next to a newly installed stop sign. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

Columbia Township Trustee Mike Musto said plans are being drawn up to make the crossing less steep.

He said the stop signs were not installed right away because officials had to make sure they were legal.

“We’re doing that basically as a temporary measure,” he said. The stop signs also will help keep the people visiting the memorial site safe, he said.

Lorain County installed the signs, and they cost about $4,000, he said.

The crossing will be leveled back about 1,000 feet on each side of the tracks, and the project will be in cooperation with Columbia Station, Liverpool Township, Medina and Lorain counties and the Ohio Department of Transportation, Musto said. Money for the project likely will come from the federal government, he said.

Musto said he could not yet give a timeframe or cost for the project. He also said he didn’t know about any immediate plans to dismantle the memorial site, where mourners have placed numerous messages, flowers, candles, ribbons and stuffed animals.

Brunswick students Jeffrey Chaya and Kevin Fox, both 18, Blake Bartchak, 17, and Lexi Poerner, 16, died as a result of the crash. Julia Romito, 17, was injured.

According to the Ohio Highway Patrol, the teenagers went over the crossing at high speed, which caused Chaya, who was driving, to lose control of the car.

A petition asking officials to fix the railroad tracks was placed at the memorial site, and an online petition at Change.org had 2,050 signatures as of Thursday.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, weighed in on the issue this week. Brown sent a letter to CSX, the owner of the tracks, encouraging the company to work with local officials on the project.

“This heartbreaking crash has brought to light serious safety concerns over the railroad crossing at Boston and Boone Roads,” Brown said in a statement Thursday. “CSX should work closely with local officials, including those in Columbia Township, Lorain and Medina counties, and the Ohio Department of Transportation to inspect the site, make repairs if necessary, and hopefully prevent this type of tragedy from occurring in the future.”

CSX released a statement in response to the letter.

“CSX continues to support transportation and law enforcement officials as they investigate this tragic accident and decide what road improvements should be made,” spokeswoman Carla Groleau said in an email. “Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of the young people involved.”

Contact Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.