EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – East Palestine has a new railroad safety training center. It was an idea born in the first few days following the February 2023 train derailment.

Ground was broken Thursday on a new $20 million facility that will train first responders from Ohio, Pennsylvania and the surrounding regions on how to respond to a diverse range of emergencies on railroad tracks.

The facility will be built on a 15-acre site off of West Taggart Street. Totally underwritten by Norfolk Southern.

“I really want to do something for the first responders in Ohio and Pennsylvania and in West Virginia who really helped this community,” said Alan Shaw, CEO of Norfolk Southern.

It’s being underwritten by Norfolk Southern Railroad and will be built on a 15-acre site near the corner of West and Taggart streets.

The idea was established by East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick after he watched hundreds race to East Palestine to fight a derailment and fire they knew very little about. Drabick said he wanted firefighters from all around the region to be better prepared for the many hazards they face on the job, especially those with volunteer departments.

“Which, predominantly, is what this country is. That’s quite frankly, in my opinion, that’s where we’re lacking a lot is that volunteer side. That’s how I started out,” Drabick said.

While the project is still being developed, officials say it will include a brand new fire station for the city.

“They gave me some advice, counsel on what we could do to help the first responders, so I made a commitment,” Shaw said.

Construction of the facility should be well underway by the end of next year.