Thursday, January 06, 2005

Street Level Access Intact for Several More Weeks!

From Free the Schuylkill River Park Coalition

Despite 5 hours of oral arguments, CSX did not succeed in getting Federal Judge Bruce Kauffman to grant a preliminary injunction to barricade the fence openings at Race and Locust Streets. Judge Kauffman was unconvinced that CSX could show "irreparable harm", which is the standard for getting a preliminary injunction. From the moment Judge Kauffman sat down at the bench, he said what all of us have thought when presented with the facts of this situation, why can't warning devices be installed at the crossings? Wouldn't that satisfy public safety? He said to CSX and the City lawyers "Have you talked?"

About an hour into the hearing, he asked CSX and the City to take 15 minutes and consider agreeing to share the cost of installing warning devices at the two grade crossings. Judge Kauffman did what every local, state and federal elected official and all of us who have sent CSX countless emails have done: he asked CSX to be reasonable and find a pragmatic solution. City's lawyers went to find out if money could be found to help pay for the crossings. But, CSX's lawyers came back and like a broken record, said "no!"

At the end of five hours of testimony and arguments, Judge Kauffman said that he wanted to take some time before making a decision on the preliminary injunction. We think he wants to find a solution that satisfies the public's need for access and safety. He urged the City to put into writing anything else it wanted to say about alternative "effective barriers" (which is what the City agreed to erect in a 1979 agreement it made with CSX's predecessor). He gave the City a week to submit its "answer" and CSX a week to respond.

Although the Judge deferred making a decision on our motion to intervene, he did allow our lawyer, Janine Bauer, to see all the exhibits and asked the City to allow her to give input to the City's submission.

City Council President Anna Verna, Councilman Darrell Clarke and Councilman Jack Kelly all attended the hearing yesterday, as did State Representative Babette Josephs. We were grateful that they could take time out of their busy schedules and show the Judge how important this issue is to them. Many thanks to everyone else who came and sat through the hearing, especially our potential witnesses.