Impending track closure near Panther Hollow Lake

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reddan
Keymaster
#

The RR gives a crap about their liability first and foremost.
Find a way to release them of all liability (to the extent of, “we don’t even have to pay our lawyers to go to court to have the civil suit dismissed”), and I’ll betcha that you can have all the at-grade crossings you want.

At least for purposes that will be unlikely to result in a deraillment…I can see a legitimate argument against creating more potential for idiots to park their cars on active tracks.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Putting up bollards positioned to allow only bicycle traffic would be a good way to ensure there isn’t a problem from cars at a new crossing.

Really, all we’re after here is the legitimization of a crossing that’s been in use every day for decades without any significant incident AFAIK. It’s only a problem because they’re making it a problem.


reddan
Keymaster
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Really, all we’re after here is the legitimization of a crossing that’s been in use every day for decades without any significant incident AFAIK. It’s only a problem because they’re making it a problem.

Agreed.

I wonder *why* it’s being made into a problem? It strikes me as highly unlikely that someone at CSX saw a cyclist roll through a stop sign one morning, and decided “I’m gonna screw those scofflaws over! How can I best do that? I know, I’ll close one obscure unofficial crossing point!”

I ask not to defend their reasons (because I can’t defend or condemn things I don’t know), but because it’s a lot easier to craft a compelling counterargument if you know what their argument is in the first place.


Steven
Participant
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I’d guess their reasoning is simple.

1. Sometimes pedestrians get killed or injured while illegally on our tracks.
1a. This is bad for many reasons, and some of those cost us money.
2. Accidents like this are more likely to happen at spots where people illegally cross our tracks.
3. Fencing prevents people from getting to our tracks.
4. Sadly, we don’t have enough money budgeted to fence every last inch of track.
5. The most efficient use of our limited fencing budget is to fence those places with the most illegal crossings.

I suspect their safety people don’t think it’s their job to worry at all about the convenience of people crossing their tracks, much less balance that against safety. Somebody else (like government) is responsible for sticking up for convenience, and arguing with the railroad.


Jacob McCrea
Participant
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Sounds right to me. The railroad is surely looking to reduce potential exposure to a multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuit when some dipshit manages to get hit by the train and their money-grubbing next-of-kin sues the railroad. Can anyone articulate how is that a bad business decision by a property owner? And would the board take up a collection for the railroad when that happens?


Marko82
Participant
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I have zilch data, but there are quite a few oil tankers going through there the last year or two, it could be a Homeland Security sponsored requests. Since they had that derailment earlier this year they might be ‘going over their books’ and looking for any safety infractions.

I mean, those kids illegally crossing the tracks could be working for isis/al-qaeda/hezbollah/Demorats….


Ahlir
Participant
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The Junction Hollow is used for gas shipments.

I see those trains all the time so assume things are pretty busy. It would make a lot of sense for the RR co. to want to increase safety. Especially given that cargo.

If the state ever manages to get royalty revenue from the frackers maybe there’ll be enough money available to pay for a proper overpass at that spot. Or maybe we could just call it an “impact fee”.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

Speaking of overpasses, it’s only been a couple of years since there was an overpass along there. A rail overpass, ironically enough. It used to be a siding into the Carnegie complex’s heating plant.


abf
Member
#

A tunnel here if a legal at-grade crossing is not doable would be absolutely wonderful. It would provide a completely off-roads connection to the jail trail and from there to the Point, with only two street crossings (boundary st and grant ave) once the Mon Wharf Switchback is complete; this yields a family-friendly cycling route all the way from the Squirrel Hill side of Schenley Park to the Point, which is currently nowhere near complete (the alternatives involve steep trails, climbing/descending (many) stairs, or biking on streets/sidewalks for quite a while).

The closest equivalent to such a tunnel in the area that I can think of, is by Station Square under the railroad tracks, connecting to the Gateway Clipper Fleet area. Here are some articles which mention that underpass: this one from 1981 says that the tunnel would have run at about $700,000 (in 1981 dollars, of course :-) ); this says that the tunnel and dock would be funded by an Urban Action Development Grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development; more mentions here and here.

And similarly, the Rock Alley idea would do the same for South Oakland, connecting it to the jail trail in a family-friendly way; now, that Duquesne Light is doing work on the Jail Trail in the area, it may be a good time to put the preparations in place for this project.


abf
Member
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See P-G article here and discussion of that article here.


Benzo
Participant
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Yes, I like the part in the PG article about the panther hollow transit corridor proposal that says:
“It also calls for bike-pedestrian improvements, including a bridge over the railroad tracks.”

I am somewhat concerned about effects on the bike trail here, but so long as a separated path exists, I’m really not going to split hairs about it.


chrishent
Member
#

Saw rider reports on Facebook saying that there are now cops at the railroad crossing preventing users from going over the tracks. BikePGH has the scoop on this, too:

Railroad Stepping Up Enforcement of Trespassing Over Tracks in Junction Hollow


J Z
Participant
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Benzo
Participant
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We need solutions for track crossings at Panther Hollow Lake, Duck Hollow Trail, and Becks Run Road. We’ve lost a lot of good trail connections due to these restrictions at track crossings.


Mick
Participant
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I was stopped at the Panther Hollow crossign on Friday. I thought there was some kind of crime scene there, but I guess 8it was jsut the police protecting me from myself.


dfiler
Member
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Note that CSX has it’s own police department. It surprised me as well but many railroads have their own police. They are authorized to enforce the laws of the jurisdiction they’re in. There is also a couple hundred years of laws that were created specifically for the railroads. Many were written when the railroads were the some of the biggest companies in the country. They had quite powerful lobbyists.

Point being, they have the authority to enforce whatever they’re saying they want to enforce.

Here’s a link to a history of the CSX police:
http://www.csx.com/index.cfm/community/csx-police-department/history-of-csx-rr-police/


MaryShaw
Member
#

According to P-G, CSX says it’s not their police:

“CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said the railroad’s police were not involved in the action referenced on the Bike Pittsburgh website. Another railroad that uses the line, Allegheny Valley Railroad, did not respond to inquiries.”

http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2015/09/17/Bicyclists-warned-about-crossing-tracks-near-Schenley-Park/stories/201509170022

Will the P-G send a reporter down to the crossing to interview whoever is issuing/threatening citations? And ask what agency he/she represents? The city is working with the RR to find a resolution — will they send a city police officer down to find out what the deal is?


gg
Member
#

Goodness they are giving out citations. Don’t they have anything better to do? The line to sight at that crossing is great and it is so easy to cross. Why is it some big deal? People have been crossing there for decades to join the park. It isn’t just cyclists, it is walkers and runners as well and it is pretty heavily traveled. Either give “the people” a crossing or look the other way. They shouldn’t be able to shut off both sides of a park like that. Just bullying the community is what it is. I am tired of the “liability” crap being used all the time. There is liability ALL over the place on every sidewalk, every part of every place we walk, run or ride. Do people shut their sidewalks down because of it? I guess someone might out there. The RR folks are a bunch of a-holes if you ask me. Just being power hungry jerks! GIVE US THE CROSSING WE DESERVE AND DON’T SPLIT A PARK IN TWO!


paulheckbert
Moderator
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my comment on that PG article: It would be foolish for CSX or Allegheny Valley Railroad to enforce trespassing laws where the railroad tracks cross the Panther Hollow Trail, there. I would guess that more people travel the Panther Hollow Trail, by foot or bicycle, across that spot, than travel along that rail line. That rail line carries one slow Amtrak train per day in each direction, to and from Washington DC, plus a few slow freight trains. We need to improve the bicycle and pedestrian network, not weaken it! This should be made into a proper level crossing, so that cyclists can bike across, as they can at Boundary St. Having to carry their bikes and step over the rails makes the crossing more dangerous than it needs to be.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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As I said earlier, I cannot think of a less safe nor more heavily traveled LEGAL crossing in the city than at Neville/Boundary.

Every legitimate concern the RR has about the illegal one applies equally to the legal one, except that sight lines are better at the illegal one, and there is more chance of a cyclist falling flat (in front of a moving train) at the legal one. And by legitimate concerns, I am specifically excluding the trespassing issue.

Is there any history of someone getting hurt/killed at the PHLake crossing, other than on purpose? I suspect that a cyclist gets hurt at the Boundary/Neville crossing on a weekly basis.


dfiler
Member
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And the panther hollow crossing has likely been in use for over a hundred years!

I wish I could find the black and white photo I’ve seen from around the turn of the century…


Mick
Participant
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chrishent
Member
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A better local example of how the at-grade crossings work just fine with cyclists and pedestrians are the three on/near the South Side trail: at 4th, 9th, and 18th Sts, respectively. Granted, only the one on 4th requires you to cross the tracks to stay on the trail, but I can’t recall any incidents that would suggest that these are a major hazard,

As Paul said, a simple at-grade crossing at Panther Hollow, with warning signals and gates, is sufficient.


edmonds59
Participant
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Last time I went thru, the gates/lights at the 4th St. South Side crossing were broken and non-functional, and the RR I assume had taped up an 8 1/2 x 11 photocopied sign that said “Signal not working”. So, yeah, liability.


gg
Member
#

Stu, I rode up that trail that would bypass the tracks that you took a video of today. Yes, I went up it and had to walk a fair amount of it due to overgrowth and it was too steep/loose to ride in parts. I don’t feel that is doable. The best option is an at grade crossing where everyone is doing it already. The second best option is enter where I did today and then create a trail alongside the RR tracks up to the pond. Clearly, we need an at grade crossing. The line to sight is super long and I have rarely ever seen a train on that track and the ones I do are slow as heck. This is ridiculous!


Ahlir
Participant
#

I’m probably missing something, but given that we have an at-grade crossing at Neville/Boundary (and ones elsewhere) that works, why can’t we have one at the Panther Hollow Lake? It of course would be for non-car traffic, but that should be ok.
As long as people obey the signals, and there’s not reason to believe they’d be less likely to do so there than elsewhere.

Why does prohibiting something that people reasonably want to do seem more important than arranging things so that everyone’s concerns are addressed?


jonawebb
Participant
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Csx probably doesn’t want any at-grade crossings. But they can’t get rid of existing ones without spending a lot of money.


gg
Member
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Jon, we can blame the ambulance chasing attorneys for this crap. A few people make big bucks and the masses suffer. It is what it is. I see no other good way to get to that pond from Panther Hollow other than that spot. If they fence it, that pond will only be accessible from the other side and shuts off all the folks coming from Oakland and more. How sad!


jonawebb
Participant
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I think the “problem” is that we value human life a lot more than we used to. On the Labor Day ride we learned that there used to be one death a week at the Pressed Steel Car Company. Railroads used to run through the middle of cities, where children would play. Can’t do that anymore. Grade-level crossings are a remnant of that time.


Marko82
Participant
#

I stopped and talked to two folks in uniform on Friday. They are PA State Constables that have been hired by Allegheny Valley RR to keep people off the tracks. They said they have been watching three or four spots along the line (duck hollow too).

And yep, you too can become a constable
http://pscpolice.org/
http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/7390358-74/constables-county-constable#axzz3mHkUmgSh


gg
Member
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Wow, so there were Constables there handing out tickets. I was there the other day and no one around. I hope I don’t have to deal with them. Might get ugly because I am in no mood and mean it. Maybe some jail time will be okay for the publicity of it. Who cares? That is one pos RR!


Vannevar
Participant
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Constables are state-authorized enforcers that do evictions and law enforcement when corporations want to hire police. They’re bouncers with government halo’s. FWIW, you don’t want to screw with them.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

With a large war chest, a strong law firm, an even stronger P.R. firm, nothing else to do, and the right approach, it might be possible to beat this back, through the courts of law, public opinion, or both. Most people I know do not have that set of resources.


gg
Member
#

Guess Allegheny Valley RR has a head of the RR that hates cyclists. What can you do? They are out there. I doubt I will see anyone there. I ride off hours and they are too cheap to pay for that on off hours I suspect. Guess they can split the park in two just like that. Nice bunch!


gg
Member
#

Isn’t there like one slow moving train a day on that silly track? So that justifies closing that crossing down that has been used for decades maybe more for that slow train? Really? What a wonderful rail road they are including all involved. Talk about sick POS people. It isn’t like it is just cyclists either folks. TONS of walkers and runners through there. All for their little train. How cute. So glad the city spent the money on fixing that pond area up. Now they can have it cut off to the all the people on the other side of the tracks. How wonderful. They sure are are great group.


reddan
Keymaster
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I have contacted the PA Utilities Commission (as they have jurisdiction over at-grade crossings), asking about the process to request a new crossing. There are blank forms on their website to request such things, although the forms are lacking in much detail and require lawyers/serving copies to the affected parties.

Hopefully, we can get back some actionable information…existing regulations, next steps, who to talk to, etc.


Marko82
Participant
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FYI
Allegheny Valley Railroad contact info in lower left corner

Allegheny Valley Railroad

Or reach out to an actual person http://carloadexpress.com/about-us/departments/


abf
Member
#

Sothwest Pennsylvania RR, which is owned by the same company, Carload Express, has a rail-with-trail (the Five Star Trail). Another rail-with-trail for the SWPA RR is planned — the Sheepskin Trail.

AVRR itself has a rail-with-trail, the Arboretum Trail walking trail in Oakmont, PA, and the trail has several pedestrian railroad crossings.


ericf
Participant
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@abf wrote:
AVRR itself has a rail-with-trail, the Arboretum Trail walking trail in Oakmont, PA, and the trail has several pedestrian railroad crossings.

FYI, this trail is ped only, no bikes , skates, or dogs allowed. It is owned by the boro, not AVRR.

On the topic of AVRR, I ride their tracks north out of Oakmont quite a bit, and have seen stupid fisherman get their cars stuck twice this summer by driving along the tracks to their fishing spot. I haven’t been up that way in about a month, but maybe this has something to do with the crackdown.


Mick
Participant
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Lately the POanther hollow crossing has been guarded by two police cars sserving and protecting us.

When i went through on early Monday afternoon, there were no police there.

Someone went over the tracks ! [I hope you undertand that this somone was someone who isn’t me SWIM- you all know I would NEVER break any laws, don’t you?]

SWIM had no plans to go through the park. Indeed, it was out of his way.

Crossing was a crime of opportunity. (Shaking my head. Negligent policing.)

As SWIM went past the lake a large bird of prey – perhaps a peregrin? – landed on the edge of the lake. At first SWIM was afraid it was The Eagle of Law Enforcement coming for retribuition, but the bird had it’s own agenda.

It was a beautiful day.

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