Hyndman solution overdue
Most communities victimized by some troubling or terrible event aren’t prevented from moving forward and putting what occurred behind them relatively quickly.
But the southern Bedford County community of Hyndman, which was the scene of a derailment involving 33 cars of a 178-car train on Aug. 2, 2017, can be counted as one exception.
That’s because residents of that small borough of about 1,000 people never really get a break from thinking about, worrying about, experiencing direct impacts from, or sometimes becoming angry or frustrated about, the trains that pass through the town.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, a total of 21 trains travel through the borough in a 24-hour period. Of that total, 19 are freight trains and two are passenger trains of Amtrak’s Washington-to-Chicago route.
Much of the direct daily contact with the trains occurs because the trains oftentimes are of a length that causes them to tie up all three railroad crossings in the town simultaneously, halting vehicular traffic. There have been times when those tie-ups involved hours.
Meanwhile, the fact that the trains pass directly through the town means that some homes are relatively close to the tracks, like the house that was destroyed in last August’s derailment and the one so badly damaged in that incident that it had to be razed.
It’s true that railroad communities, including those in Blair County like Altoona and Tipton, live with noise, delays and other issues and that most residents have adjusted themselves to minimizing whatever negative impacts they might encounter.
However, Hyndman residents and others who travel through the town are victims of a lack of consistent, proactive engagement by local elected leaders aimed at addressing the issues and concerns that remain unresolved there. First and foremost is the fact that there should be some dependable route around the three crossings when a train is blocking all of them.
People’s lives and/or properties are in danger when emergency responders are blocked from crossing the tracks.
CSX Transportation, whose freight trains use the Hyndman tracks, hasn’t had the incentive to be part of a permanent solution to the problem because local and county officials haven’t been persistent enough in trying to address the issue.
It’s long overdue for them to step up aggressively their up-to-now anemic efforts, even if that involves standing outside CSX officials’ doors at their corporate offices and demanding a serious sit-down meeting.
Aggressive action does produce solutions, as a Johnstown mayor about 55 years ago proved when he ordered police vehicles to block a crossing in that city in an effort to resolve a noise issue.
The mayor’s move worked.
CSX has done a number of good things for Hyndman over the years and stepped up quickly to help residents in the aftermath of last year’s accident. For those positive actions it deserves praise.
Nevertheless, county officials, along with officials of Hyndman and adjoining Londonderry Township, need to press for CSX to join an initiative that addresses the concerns and fears with which Hyndman residents continue to live with daily. State lawmakers and state transportation officials also should become involved.
Last year provided a serious wake-up call that so far has been mostly ignored.