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City needs funds to fix RR crossing

Tuesday’s fatal accident is not the first tragedy the City of Ironton has seen at the Center Street Landing railroad crossing.

Wednesday, August 04, 1999

Tuesday’s fatal accident is not the first tragedy the City of Ironton has seen at the Center Street Landing railroad crossing. And, unless matching funds for an approved $168,000 in grant funding is raised, it will not likely be the last, city officials said.

Although Ironton Police Department reports confirm the safety and caution equipment were functioning when Ironton resident Nancy Sutton crossed the tracks Tuesday evening, the area is, nonetheless, a dangerous crossing, city engineer Joe McCallister said.

"Improvements to the crossing won’t guarantee that no one will ever get hurt there again, but it will reduce the chances drastically," McCallister said.

With the possibility of nearly $170,000 in federal grant funding for improvements to the riverfront area, widening the crossing and increasing visibility will top the priority list if the city can produce the matching $50,000, McCallister added.

"We need the $50,000 from council or donations, however we can get it, so we can make the crossing level," he said. "I think it’s really needed and that’s evident by this unfortunate accident."

Grant funding would allow the city to make the crossing two lanes, he said. But the main benefit would be the increased visibility produced when the crossing is leveled off, he added.

Eastbound vehicles crossing the tracks must travel up an incline, blinding drivers temporarily to oncoming traffic, he explained.

"It would help more so in getting out of the park than with getting in, which is not as big a problem," he said.

Mrs. Sutton and her passenger, Mary Richendollar, were entering the riverfront park area Tuesday when their 1986 Cadillac El Dorado was struck by a southbound Norfolk Southern train.

Mrs. Sutton died shortly after her arrival at River Valley Health System from related injuries. Ms. Richendollar is listed in critical condition at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, W.Va., where she was transported by medical helicopter after the accident.

"This isn’t the first time we have had a problem at a crossing," Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary said. "We had a fatality not too long ago, and there has been a push by all city officials to make this a safer crossing."

Grant funding that would allow the city to begin work on the Center Street Crossing is within reach, he added.

But first, the city must find a way to raise matching funds. And with a restricted city budget due to recent job and industry losses, that could mean the city will ask residents and local businesses to donate.

If the city can find a way to raise the money, the grant funding will help ensure tragedies like Tuesday’s fatality are fewer, he said.

"It tears us all up to see an accident like this," Cleary said. "You start to feel responsible for the public, for their safety and what happens to them."