Western Pennsylvania not seeing new grant money to make railroad crossings safer, more convenient

WASHINGTON — If a first responder is blocked from getting across a railroad crossing, it could be the difference between life and death. Monday, the Biden administration announced the federal government is doling out $570 million dollars in grants to help solve problem of blocked crossings. The funding will help close dangerous crossings.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE >> New grant money should make railroad crossings safer and more convenient

While $16 million is going to 10 crossings in Berks County and a few hundred thousand is going to crossings in the Philadelphia area, Western Pennsylvania will not see any of that money.

But the reality is, in our communities, crossings are blocked and in some cases, it has affected first responders from getting to emergencies.

Take Bridgewater Borough. The fire chief says a stopped train on Mulberry Street prevented his crews from leaving the scene of a fire. In a lawsuit filed against Norfolk Southern, a man claims that same crossing prevented an ambulance from taking him to the hospital for 45 minutes after he took a bad fall, hit his face and broke his leg.

RELATED >> Trains blocking railroad crossings a major safety concern for first responders

Neighbors along Railroad Street in Creighton also reached out to us. They tell Channel 11, trains are stopped for hours at a time, preventing people from getting to and from work or school. Families fear if there’s an emergency, nobody will come.

“We have to wait and god-forbid there’s an emergency back here, nobody’s coming,” Tanya Gildner said. “No firetrucks, no ambulance, nobody.”

She also told us about a terrifying situation last year - one she says she’ll never repeat.

“Both crossings were blocked, and my son had to get to school,” Gildner said. “So we literally crawled under the train so he could get to school.”

Congressman Chris Deluzio, who represents parts of Allegheny and Beaver counties, says he introduced the Railway Safety Act of 2023 in the house to make rails and our communities safer.

“There is a piece that allows the Department of Transportation to issue rules and regulations around exactly this problem - the blockages,” Rep. Deluzio tells Channel 11. “The amount of time they’re blocking. And to issue those rules to prevent that from happening without consequences.”

Deluzio said he’s fighting for folks living near railroads, like those in Creighton.

“It’s unacceptable,” Deluzio said. “If you’re living here, you can’t get to anything in life you might have to do. Worse, if there’s emergency and police need to respond to it or an ambulance, they might not be able to get there.”

Deluzio says common sense rail reform is needed to keep our communities safe.

“I think there’s attention now to how dangerous and risky these trains can be,” Deluzio added. “We cannot accept this as normal, accept this as status quo, we have to make rail safer or communities like these are going to continue to pay the cost.”

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