OLEAN – Plans to improve safety at the North Union Street railroad crossing were presented Wednesday to Administrative Law Judge Robert A. Rybak.
Officials from the city, state Department of Transportation and the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad testified.
City Director of Works Tom Windus said the proposed project would make the crossing safer, as well as updating safety gates already in place.
“We will modify the intersection where the railroad and North Union Street meet,” he said. “Currently, the street is two lanes north and two lanes south.”
Windus told the judge that the project will close the existing lanes to one in each direction, create a bicycle lane in each direction and create a grass median in the center of the roadway, separating the travel directions. While the entire North Union Street improvement project is expected to take just over two years to complete, the railroad crossing is expected to take 30 to 60 days to complete, for a cost of about $130,000. Those funds will come from governmental rail authority budgets according to Windus.
According to Windus and railroad representative Lucas Brewer, the new safety gates would be shorter than those that are currently in place. Incandescent bulbs in the current gates would be replaced with LED lighting in the new gates. The proposed safety increases would not just be in the gates themselves, Windus said, with Brewer’s agreement.
“The way that intersection is set up now, if a driver can see that the train is not close, or is not visible, they can drive around the gates,” Windus said. “Once the median is in, drivers will not be able to simply drive around, without driving over the curbs and through the median.”
While work is underway, the railroad will have flagmen on site to ensure safety of trains and drivers. The crossing sees about two to four trains a day, six days a week, Brewer said. That number, up in the last six months, could increase to four trains seven days a week, he said.
The new gates would also act as traffic control on the sidewalks, Windus said.
No comments form the public were made in regard to the proposed changes.
Rybak said the process after the hearing could result in a final judgment on the proposed changes in 90 days.