Local leaders meet with railroad officials to discuss issues

Submitted Photo Pictured above, municipal leaders meet with railroad officials to further strengthen communication and emergency preparedness efforts.

Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello recently met with local leaders and high-level executives from the two major railroads that operate in Northern Chautauqua County, CSX and Norfolk Southern.

The meeting provided a forum for local leaders and railroad officials to openly discuss the challenges faced when dealing with the railroads.

“This unprecedented meeting allowed us to come together to develop plans to address challenges that impact our quality of life here in Chautauqua County,” said Borrello. “In addition to addressing safety and convenience concerns, it is also my intention to lead an effort to improve the look of the many train bridges that are located in high visibility areas like those in the City of Dunkirk and the Village of Silver Creek.”

The meeting was attended by municipal leaders from the City of Dunkirk and the towns of Dunkirk, Hanover, Pomfret, Portland, Ripley and Westfield, which are many of the communities in the county that are impacted by the two railroads.

The group discussed handling specific situations and improving overall communication with the railroads, especially during an emergency.

“The meeting with CSX and Norfolk Southern was very informative and helpful,” said Jude Gardner, Town of Pomfret Highway Superintendent. “Mr. Borrello asked many good questions concerning safety where certain houses and communities are sometimes blocked off from help for emergency situations because of a train being in the way. It was also good to be able to talk personally with the officials from these railroads. They were very helpful and understanding. I believe we need more interaction like this in the future with more agencies.”

“The meeting was much need and very informative,” said Doug Bowen, Town of Ripley Supervisor. “We learned things we didn’t know such as the problems with uncoupling a train and it was good to put faces to names with the people we contact at the railroad.”

The group also discussed AskRail and Operation Lifesaver, which are safety tools available to first responders and the public.

AskRail, which is an app available for smart phones, provides fire chiefs and EMS personnel with information about what materials are being carried in a railcar. This allows first responders to see the contents of the entire train so they can determine if any of the railcars contain a hazardous material so they can make an informed decision on the best response to a rail emergency.

Operation Lifesaver is a public safety education and awareness organization that strives to reduce collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossing, and to prevent trespassing on or near railroad tracks. This organization provides lesson plans, videos, free onsite safety presentations, and other resources to help educate children and the public on safely biking, driving or walking across designated railroad crossings; waiting for and boarding passenger trains; and other railroad safety tips.

“I was very encouraged by the lines of communication that were opened with Norfolk Southern and CSX executives,” said Kevin O’Connell, Chautauqua County Legislator D-Silver Creek. “There was an obvious increase in positive interaction between them and all our local municipal leaders. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to work with them in dealing with our mutual concerns.”

“We received good information and were given better alternatives for communication,” said Borrello. “I thank Congressman Tom Reed and his staff for helping us coordinate this meeting. I also thank Robert Rohauer and Maurice O’Connell of CSX, Michael Fesen of Norfolk Southern, and the many local officials who participated to make this a very worthwhile and productive meeting.”

For more information about Operation Lifesaver, visit www.oli.org.


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