July 24, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Railroad project finished year after four teens died

The railroad crossing on Boston Road in Columbia Township where four Brunswick High School students died in a crash last year is reopening Thursday following completion of a nearly half-million-dollar safety overhaul.

Crews are finishing work to level out the slope of the crossing where driver Jeffrey Chaya, 18, lost control of a Chevrolet Cavalier shortly after midnight June 3, 2012, after going over the tracks at 69 mph, the Ohio Highway Patrol estimated.

Work to level the steep grade at this Boston Road railroad crossing, where four Brunswick High School students died in a crash last year in Columbia Township, is complete. The road is scheduled to reopen to traffic Thursday. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

Chaya and passengers Blake Bartchak, 17; Lexi Poerner, 16; and Kevin Fox, 18, died after the crash. Julia Romito, the only survivor, had no memory of what happened. Chaya and Fox, both seniors, were to graduate that day.

Police said drivers were known to use the steep grade of the crossing as a ramp to launch their vehicles airborne.

The $450,000 project was funded 90 percent through federal funds and 10 percent with local funding, said Christine Myers, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Transportation’s District 3, which covers Lorain and Medina counties.

“The project has moved forward on schedule,” she said.

Temporary lighted stop signs that were placed at the railroad tracks have been removed.

Caution signs were added near the crossing after the crash, and the speed limit was lowered from 55 mph to 45 mph last year. Signs recommend a speed of 25 mph to cross the tracks.

The project was a collaboration among Columbia and Liverpool townships, ODOT and the Lorain and Medina county engineer’s offices, Myers said.

Officials got together after the crash to figure out what might be done.

“It’s unprecedented that we get a project done within a year’s time,” she said. “We’re glad to see that the improvements have been made in this area.”

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