West Newton will consider temporary road after train accident cut off neighborhood
West Newton officials on Monday discussed the possibility of building a temporary road linking two dead-end streets between the Youghiogheny River and CSX Corp. railroad tracks, so residents in about a dozen homes would not be cut off from the rest of the borough if a train blocks the lone street into their neighborhood.
Councilman David Tamasy said during council’s budget workshop that there was discussion among CSX representatives and borough officials at a Nov. 11 meeting about the feasibility of constructing a temporary road linking the southern end of Rio Vista Drive and the northern end of Mallard Street.
The borough would have to get permission from the property owners to build a temporary road, which would be used only in case of emergencies. The road would have to be chained off at other times, Tamasy said.
The need for an emergency access to the Mallard Street homes arose when the railroad crossing at Mallard Street was blocked for 10 hours on Sept. 26 by an accident at the CSX railroad crossing on East Main Street as a train hit a pickup truck.
Residents complained to council that they could not drive out of their neighborhood, and as a result, they were late for work or missed work that day. They also expressed concerns that fire and ambulance vehicles could not reach their neighborhood in the event of an emergency.
Rather than undergoing the expense of building a roadway over a stream that runs underneath the railroad tracks and cuts between the two streets before emptying into the river, CSX representatives said vehicles could drive over the stone ballast between the railroad tracks and the trees above the stream, Tamasy said.
To connect the two dead-end streets, a distance of about 100 yards, the borough would need permission from the property owners at both ends of the street.
Robert Short, owner of TLC Adult Care Center at 9 Rio Vista Drive, said Monday that he had not been contacted by any borough official about the matter and declined to comment on it.
The property at the northern end of Mallard Street is owned by John Hall and Robert Supernovich of West Newton, according to Westmoreland County tax records. They could not be reached for comment.
Randy Shincovich, the borough’s street department supervisor, said there’s a problem with allowing vehicles to travel adjacent to the tracks because of the proximity to the embankment above the creek. While it is wide enough for borough vehicles to travel, the space would have to be widened and a guardrail would need to be installed in that area, Shincovich said.
“If you go over that (embankment), you end up in the creek,” Shincovich said.
Robert Doolittle, a spokesman for CSX Corp., could not be reached for comment.
Residents also told borough council that they made numerous phone calls to CSX Corp.’s headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., complaining about the long blockage, but the crossing was not opened.
Tamasy said CSX officials said there was a misunderstanding with residents because they thought the blockage was a matter of inconvenience. The borough has received contact information with CSX officials in the case of an emergency, Tamasy said.
Council President George Molovich, who was involved in discussions about the 2015 budget, questioned who would pay to establish a temporary road.
Tamasy said CSX did not say it would pay for a temporary road.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or [email protected].