Clear and Present Danger of Rail Crossing Closures
By Councilman Joe Bartello, Director of Public Safety
The City received a communication from Norfolk Southern Railroad Company, requesting a meeting between them and City representatives at the Court Street crossing, to discuss safety and other issues. This meeting took place on April 19th. Representing the City were myself as Director of Public Safety and Kevin Troup, Director of Public Works. There were a number of railroad executives and employees present along with Daniel R. Helfrich, an engineer with the PUC transportation division from Harrisburg.
Closure of All Our Crossings?
I regret that the reporting of this meeting in the Daily Item on Sunday May 5th did little to salvage that publication’s reputation for biased and agenda-based reporting. They made no attempt to contact me when compiling this story, and took the words of Councilman Troup at face value, even though his statement disagreed radically, both with the actual discussions which took place and also, it would seem, with the press release they had been given by Julie Brosius.
During the meeting the railroad representatives brought up the subject of crossing closures, claiming safety and financial issues were involved. They quoted a potential saving of some $250,000 per closed crossing. They were not talking about only 5 crossings as claimed in the Daily item. To quote the words of their representative, they intended to close as many as they could get away with! These comments, taken at face value, could mean that a closure of all of our crossings is on the table.
I expressed my opposition to these proposals in the strongest possible terms, telling them that splitting the City in two could have profound implications for safety, not to mention the resulting traffic chaos, but was told by the PUC engineer that if we did not agree to what they (the railroad) wanted, then they would simply go to court and it would cost us money, and we would lose anyway.
I do not take kindly to threats of this nature and responded accordingly.
Troup “Unconcerned” by Proposals
Kevin Troup did not appear to share my concerns, and instead asked that they send a proposal to which the City could then reply. He was sure there was room for compromise, and that the City would give due consideration to their proposals.
I voiced my disagreement at this expression of weakness. I was elected to the City to look after the interests of its inhabitants, rather than the bottom line or other operational considerations of a huge corporation such as Norfolk Southern.
The question still remains – why has this issue been kept under wraps? I can only conclude that the Mayor found it to be embarrassing to his election prospects, and hopes to keep it off the table until after the May 21st Primary, once again putting his own personal interests before the wider interests of this City and its inhabitants. I do not believe that this is the proper way in which to run our City and neither, I am sure, do many of our citizens.