September 23, 2014

Medina
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Railway crossings made safer by county taskforce

In 2011, there was one crash between a car and a train at Medina County railroad crossings, in the latest data available.

In 2001, there were eight.

Medina County Commissioner Pat Geissman talks railroad safety with Randall Schumacher, of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Geissman chairs the county Railroad Safety Taskforce, which works to improve track crossings and had its 100th meeting Wednesday, May 1, 2013. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY NICK GLUNT)

County Commissioner Pat Geissman credited the dramatic change to the Medina County Railroad Safety Taskforce, which was established in 2002.

“We don’t know how many lives have been saved as a result of these improvements,” Geissman said, “but we know lives have been saved.”

Since its establishment, the taskforce has improved the safety of more than 70 of the county’s 108 railroad crossings by adding lights and gates.

Geissman is chairwoman of the taskforce, which celebrated its 100th meeting with cake, coffee and guests Wednesday.

She said it all started at a 2002 commissioners’ conference when she heard speakers from the Angels on Track Foundation, which reimburses local governments for improving railroad safety. She reached out, and the foundation agreed to help fund the taskforce.

That same year, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio rated Medina County the worst in the state for railroad accidents.

“I didn’t even know that when I started the taskforce,” she said. “But we’ve never been worst again.”

When the taskforce started, the members met monthly to discuss improvements.

“Now we meet every other month,” she said. “Not because it’s less important, but because there’s less to do.”

The taskforce includes representatives from law enforcement, emergency management, schools and municipal governments. State officials also were present at the 100th meeting.

Randall Schumacher, of the state utilities commission, said he was proud of the organization’s work and that it was a rare thing in the state.

Julie Kaercher, of the Ohio Rail Development Commission, agreed.

“This is one of the first county taskforces in the state,” Kaercher said. “And to my knowledge, Pat is the only commissioner in the state on a railway safety taskforce.”

Geissman said she hopes to stay on the taskforce as long as she can.

“We’re going to keep working,” she said, “to make sure every crossing in Medina County is safe.”

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.