Federal Rail Agency Steps Up Campaign: Crossing Accidents

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Federal Rail Agency Steps Up Campaign: Crossing Accidents

Postby Jeff Smith » Wed Mar 16, 2016 2:21 pm

Had to parse the title above a bit. This article mostly concerns CT, mentions the MNRR accident, but has a broader scope of course.

Note: I'm starting out this topic in "Operations", but then I'm going to copy/cross-thread it to MNRR, Class I, HRRC (which will likely be going away anyway), and finally, New England Railfan. So if you see it elsewhere like in MNRR, it's only because I've left the "moved topic" link.

Hartford Courant

Brief, fair-use SNIPS according to our policy:

Federal Rail Agency Steps Up Campaign Against Train Vs. Vehicle Crashes

As part of its campaign to reduce crashes between trains and vehicles, the Federal Railroad Administration will urge railroads and state transportation departments to step up safety reviews, with special attention to crossings where traffic lights are nearby.

Connecticut has 82 of the nation's roughly 5,000 rail crossings near traffic lights, and most are the responsibility of privately owned freight railroads that generally operate at low speeds.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has said it is upgrading all 38 crossings along the New Haven to Springfield tracks as part of the Hartford line commuter rail initiative. That will include any that are linked to traffic lights, such as those near the Wallingford train station.
...
Some analysts have suggested that vehicle navigation systems play a role in crashes, because drivers follow the GPS directions but don't get an audio warning that they're approaching railroad tracks. The FRA last spring reached an agreement with Google to have rail crossing information used in its navigation systems, and the agency is trying to get Garmin and other GPS producers to do likewise.
...
It is up to the DOT to inspect crossings on the state-owned Waterbury and Danbury branches of the Metro-North New Haven Line, but many of the state's crossings are the responsibility of private freight companies.

Pan Am Southern, for instance, owns the tracks and operates the trains that run through Bristol and New Britain. The DOT owns the New Milford to Canaan tracks but leases them to the Housatonic Railroad for freight operations. All of those lines have crossings close to traffic lights, but the trains operate at far slower speeds than Metro-North passenger trains.
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Re: Federal Rail Agency Steps Up Campaign: Crossing Accident

Postby ExCon90 » Wed Mar 16, 2016 4:11 pm

What the FRA should do is focus on encouraging State and local police departments to institute a vigorous program locally to educate motorists that if there isn't room for your vehicle on the far side of the crossing, stay on the near side until there is room, traffic lights notwithstanding. I think this is in the vehicle code in most states, but it's violated every day, and traffic lights are only one facet of the problem. A train standing near a grade crossing when there are two or more tracks can result in a collision just as easily if a motorist is unconscious of the possibility that another train is approaching.
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Re: Federal Rail Agency Steps Up Campaign: Crossing Accident

Postby pnaw10 » Thu Mar 17, 2016 9:09 pm

ExCon90 wrote:institute a vigorous program locally to educate motorists


And the foundation for such programs already exists: Operation Lifesaver. Unfortunately, you usually only see OL getting exposure at train shows -- where most of the attendees already know how to safely navigate railroad crossings. I can't remember the last time I saw an OL banner/table/signage/literature at a non-train show event, or any OL ads/PSAs in any form of media -- radio, TV, print or on "news" websites. Maybe the FRA should put its money where its mouth is, by increasing funding to OL so it can get itself "out there" in front of the public again.
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Re: Federal Rail Agency Steps Up Campaign: Crossing Accident

Postby litz » Fri Mar 18, 2016 1:06 pm

the Southeastern Railroad Museum's OL chapter often sets up at Gwinnett (now Atlanta) Gladiators hockey games.

They're both based in Duluth, GA, in the NE Atlanta suburbs.
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Re: Federal Rail Agency Steps Up Campaign: Crossing Accident

Postby Watchman318 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:35 pm

ExCon90 wrote:What the FRA should do is focus on encouraging State and local police departments to institute a vigorous program locally to educate motorists that if there isn't room for your vehicle on the far side of the crossing, stay on the near side until there is room, traffic lights notwithstanding. I think this is in the vehicle code in most states, but it's violated every day, and traffic lights are only one facet of the problem.
^^^ That, with OL doing the education. "If your vehicle won't fit, don't commit!"
In Maine, it's not actually in the motor vehicle statutes, but at locations where the "DO NOT STOP ON TRACK" signs are posted, a violation would probably be failure to obey a traffic control device. I think that's a $109 fine, but it's rarely (if ever) enforced.
Part of the lack of enforcement is probably the logistics of summonsing or even verbally warning motorists who disregard the signs. Another part is what I'd call the "law of averages effect." Crashes because someone stopped on a track don't happen often; unfortunately, incidents like the Valhalla crash don't stick in the minds of much of the motoring public (or law enforcement/highway safety administrators) for very long. :(
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Re: Federal Rail Agency Steps Up Campaign: Crossing Accident

Postby Ridgefielder » Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:11 pm

In 1985, when I was 10, my elementary school in Wilton, CT had a school assembly and brought in people from Conrail and Northeast Utilities to tell us about safety. The man from the electric company showed us a film (pre-video days, remember) of a pet monkey electrocuting itself on some power lines; the man from the railroad showed us a film about a school bus driving into the path of a train, then said that a train running over a car was the same as a car running over an empty soda can.

Both scared the $&#*! out of me and the rest of my friends. It's effective enough that to this day I brake and look both ways at a crossing even if it's gated and won't touch a branch of a tree that's near power lines.
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Re: Federal Rail Agency Steps Up Campaign: Crossing Accident

Postby CRail » Fri Aug 12, 2016 1:29 pm

Unfortunately, that very effective form of education would likely be deemed too insensitive today.
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