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NACo > Research > County Research Connections > Posts > Counties and Foundations Team Up to Improve Railroad Safety in Ohio
May 13
Counties and Foundations Team Up to Improve Railroad Safety in Ohio

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Counties collaborate with different stakeholders to help execute their policies — foundations are one such partner, helping counties stretch their dollars by providing additional funds.  Medina County’s (Ohio) Railway Safety Taskforce recently celebrated its 100th meeting and the great improvements in railway safety it achieved over the years, partly the result of its collaboration with the Angels on Track Foundation.  This partnership is instructive in the area of railway safety and because it shows the possibilities of county-foundation partnerships.

In 2002, Medina County Commissioner and Railroad Safety Taskforce chair Pat Geissman reached out to the Angels on Track Foundation and built a partnership with the foundation to help fund the taskforce.  According to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), there were six crashes between a car and a train at Medina County railroad crossings in 2003, the first year after the taskforce formed.  But the partnership, with additional funding coming from the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC), PUCO, the North American Railway Foundation, and the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad, has improved the safety of more than 70 of the county’s 108 railroad crossings by adding lights and gates.  By 2008 and 2009 there were no car–train crashes in Medina County, Ohio. 

The cooperative county-foundation partnership provides a model for even greater effectiveness in improving the over 5,900 crossings in Ohio, and the thousands more nationwide.  Since 2002, Ohio’s statewide railroad fatalities plunged from 20 down to 4 in both 2010 and 2011, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.  Many other states have railway crossing crashes that exceed 50 and even 100 a year, resulting in hundreds of deaths.  Fifteen states represent over 65 percent of total incidents in the United States and over 67 percent of the 271 deaths from these crashes in the United States.  Fortunately for those outside Ohio, county transportation authorities and national rail safety foundations such as the North American Railway Foundation are looking for opportunities to improve railcar, rail worker, and railroad crossing safety.

States with the Largest Number of Railroad Crossing Incidents, 2012

State​

Nu​mber  of Crashes

Texas

227

California

121

Illinois

108

Indiana

106

Alabama

88

Georgia

86

Louisiana

79

Ohio

73

Tennessee

66

​Oklahoma ​61

Pennsylvania

60

South Carolina

59

Arkansas

51

Missouri

50

Iowa

43

Total U.S.

1960

​Source: Federal Railroad Administration, Office of Safety Analysis, 2012

County-foundation partnerships may be one way to address these staggering numbers.  Taking Medina County (Ohio) as an example, county knowledge and resources can be used in this life-saving work to make communities safer.  Foundations and other interested groups can ease the financial burden on counties for railroad safety improvements.  Finally, when facing other important challenges, counties may use this type of partnerships to advance their mission.

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