West Newton officials’ meeting with CSX makes progress
A recent meeting between West Newton officials and representatives from CSX Corp. gave a group of residents hope that they won’t be cut off from the rest of the borough for prolonged periods by a train blocking the lone street into their neighborhood.
“There really was a lot of progress,” said Lynn Hoak of Mallard Street of the Nov. 11 meeting where about a dozen people, consisting of three CSX representatives, borough officials and local residents, walked along the railroad tracks in the neighborhood.
Hoak represented a group of residents who went to borough council in October looking for a solution to having the Mallard Street railroad crossing blocked for 10 hours on Sept. 26 because of a train-truck accident at the East Main Street railroad crossing.
Robert Doolittle, a spokesman for CSX Corp., could not be reached for comment after the meeting. Doolittle said before the meeting that CSX will work with the borough to look at ways to address the problem.
One option discussed was creating a link between the northern end of Mallard Street and the southern end of Rio Vista Street, Hoak said. Rio Vista Street connects with South First Street and would allow access to the West Newton Bridge.
That option, however, presents its own set of problems because a stream at the bottom of a gully separates the northern end of Mallard Street with the southern end of Rio Vista Street. The borough would have to obtain a right of way from TLC Adult Care Center at 9 Rio Vista St., located at the southern end of Rio Visa Street, Hoak said.
“At least that gives us a way out,” Hoak said.
Mallard Street residents had expressed their concern that emergency vehicles – police, fire and ambulance – could not reach the neighborhood because the railroad crossing was blocked. Hoak said her family has lived in that neighborhood for many years and that was the first time a railcar had blocked the crossing for 10 hours.
“It wasn’t an inconvenience,” Hoak said of the 10-hour blockage. “It was scary,” she added.
One of the CSX officials recommended that residents contact the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety in case of an emergency which requires police, fire or ambulance, Hoak said. When notified by the public safety department, which coordinates 911 calls, a CSX representative promised the railroad would respond and move a rail car to open the crossing, Hoak said.
West Newton Mayor Mary Popovich declined to comment on details of the meeting until the information is passed onto borough council.
“They have some decisions to make,” Popovich said of borough council.
West Newton Councilman David Tamasy, who attended the meeting, could not be reached for comment.
Paul Williams, the borough’s emergency management director, could not be reached for comment. Prior to the meeting, Williams said officials will ask if a temporary railroad crossing could be created and used in the event of an emergency.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected] or 724-836-5252.