Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

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DutchRailnut
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by DutchRailnut » Wed Dec 16, 2015 7:34 pm

Engineer was Steve Smalls and not girl at all.
http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/ ... ctual.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Wed Dec 16, 2015 8:28 pm

I stand corrected on that one, Mr. Railnut. Ms. Brody was the driver of the Mercedes Benz SUV with which the MNRR Harlem Division train collided.

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by Jeff Smith » Sat Dec 19, 2015 11:09 am

New York Times

I know an accident like this provokes a lot of emotional, valid reactions. Just a gentle reminder to remember however you feel about the driver's actions, she left behind a family. Of course, we're sympathetic to the other victims of this accident as well: the engineer, the passengers, etc.
Metro-North Crash Inquiry Delves Into Behavior of Woman Killed on Tracks

As federal investigators have sought to determine what led to a fatal crash on the Metro-North Railroad this past winter, they have focused considerable attention on understanding the actions of the woman whose sport utility vehicle was struck by the train and who was killed, along with five passengers aboard the train.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday released hundreds of pages of documents related to the continuing investigation into the Feb. 3 crash in Valhalla, N.Y., with detailed reports on the design of the railroad crossing and the train equipment.

But the documents also show that the agency has examined the background of the driver, Ellen Brody, in hopes of better understanding what happened that night.

Ms. Brody tested negative for drugs and alcohol, according to the documents. Her husband, Alan Brody, said she got about nine hours of sleep the night before the crash and had not been facing unusual stress. She was not using her cellphone at the time of the crash, according to phone records cited by the safety agency. Her last call started about 15 minutes before the crash, when her husband gave her directions to a business meeting because she was not familiar with the area.
...
The driver behind Ms. Brody, who moved his car back and motioned for her to do the same, told investigators that when she got out of her car, she was not moving in a hurried or panicked manner, the report said.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by Jeff Smith » Sat Dec 19, 2015 11:13 am

WSJ.com (may be behind a pay-wall; brief, fair-use provided.

Closing this crossing, and others, may not be such a bad idea. No representation here that the crossing was faulty; if it eliminates human error, it's not necessarily a bad thing.
Town Weighs Closing Rail Crossing Where Deadly Crash Occurred
Potential move comes after deadly accident on tracks in February; state approval needed

A Westchester County town is considering closing the train crossing where the driver of a sport-utility vehicle and five Metro-North passengers were killed in a fiery crash last winter.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by DutchRailnut » Sat Dec 19, 2015 11:18 am

I am sure no one on railroad will shed a tear if crossings are gone, but I can hear the crying of unwashed masses about having a detour in their daily travels.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by Jeff Smith » Sat Dec 19, 2015 11:28 am

Well, they can cry me a river. It removes safety issues for not just drivers, but for crew and passengers, and removes operational complexities. Right?
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by DutchRailnut » Sat Dec 19, 2015 11:32 am

not really, by taking out the one crossing were accident happened it will double the traffic on other crossing.
And so it would create a similar accident situation, when traffic backs up.
If Conductors are in charge, why are they promoted to be Engineer???

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by SwingMan » Sun Dec 20, 2015 11:45 am

Not to mention that if you try to close every potentially hazardous crossing there will be many that can be deemed questionable as far as safety. This is what civil engineers are supposed to figure out for the rest of us.

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by Lincoln78 » Sun Dec 20, 2015 4:02 pm

Opinion: I am glad to see that the investigation is reviewing the mishap driver's physical/mental state.
Fact: That aspect of the investigation is an important part of aviation mishap investigations; I have limited experience with those and find the science interesting.

Fact: A significant root cause of this mishap is the fact that the mishap driver stopped her car on an active track.
Opinion that could be fact: She compounded her mistake by getting out of the car and getting back in her car without enough time to drive off the tracks.

The fact that there has not been a mishap at that crossing in along time suggests to me that it is generally safe. Not sure how many near misses there have been. Looks like it is a reasonable distance from traffic lights and other conditions that would set up an incautious driver. Grade crossing elimination will certainly reduce crossing mishaps but as has been noted many times it is not always practical. People need to remember "don't stop the tracks, ever."

Great thread. Glad to see it back. I have learned a lot; thanks to all who have contributed. No matter how hard we try to smooth the rough edges of the world things happen.

/Thanks to Tommy Meehan for the Frank Sprague shoutout. My (great grandfather's) fourth cousin (his electrical/engineering/business talents must be in a genetic line we don't share..)

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by justalurker66 » Sun Dec 20, 2015 5:37 pm

Not stopping on the tracks can be a challenge. It is not always easy to see if one has enough room to clear a crossing and if one is slightly distracted it is easy to enter before one realizes they cannot leave. I see people do it at non-railroad intersections all the time. Stopping in an intersection instead of refusing to enter the intersection until they know that they will be able to clear it. The optimism is that the traffic will clear and one can clear the intersection/crossing.

What to do after the mistake is made is clear to us on this forum ... get off the tracks. But most of us understand how trains work (they rarely stop for road crossings) and how crossing protection works (breakaway arms) and (especially with 20/20 hindsight) can see that whatever damage is caused getting off of the tracks to the vehicle, crossing gate or other property is better than being hit by the train.

The third issue is the overall safety of the crossing and train equipment. This story should have been "woman killed at crossing". While she caused the accident it was not her fault that the end of the rails were not protected and that the rails came up into the train cars. She didn't design or build that crossing or others like it that remain death traps waiting for similar accidents.

While one can assume that the crossing was "safe" because there were few incidents in the past that person would be making the same mistake as the one that assumed that there were no flaws in the design of the crossing or railroad just because that particular type of accident had not happened before. The 20/20 hindsight that says "I cannot believe she entered the crossing" and "I cannot believe she didn't move her car when she had the chance" also applies to the railroad. I cannot believe that no one looked at how the third rail was installed and didn't see a problem.

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by Tommy Meehan » Tue Dec 22, 2015 7:08 am

Lincoln78 wrote:.../Thanks to Tommy Meehan for the Frank Sprague shoutout. My (great grandfather's) fourth cousin (his electrical/engineering/business talents must be in a genetic line we don't share..)
You're welcome. The influence and accomplishments of Frank Sprague and William Wilgus -- especially Sprague -- continue in service to the public right up to the present day.
Tommy Meehan wrote:It should probably be remembered that the under-running third rail system was developed (and patented) by New York Central chief engineer William Wilgus and electrical developer Frank Sprague (he also perfected regenerative braking and MU traction control). They perfected the third rail design in 1905 just as New York Central was about to electrify the suburban lines running out of Grand Central. The main advantages cited were greater reliability in winter weather and better protection for railroad workers. Here's a link to a story about Wilgus and Sprague and some of their achievements, written by Joseph Cunningham and Sprague's grandson John Sprague, in the Jan.-Feb. 2013 issue of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) Power & Energy Magazine.

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by F-line to Dudley via Park » Tue Dec 22, 2015 9:57 am

DutchRailnut wrote:not really, by taking out the one crossing were accident happened it will double the traffic on other crossing.
And so it would create a similar accident situation, when traffic backs up.
Not if the crossing in question is surplus-to-requirement to begin with. Lakeview Ave. is the thoroughfare connecting to the parkway. Commerce St. is a redundant side-street shortcut through the cemetery that doesn't become anything load-bearing until it's on the other side of the parkway. Its volumes are low...except when the parkway is all messed up. Then it's a lazy shortcut to bail out of the Lakeview traffic queue 500 ft. in advance of that signal by banging a left. Pure induced demand trap...and has been ID'd as such in the past. There'd be zero loss of mobility if they closed it. And if they tied Wall St. into the part of Commercial that's on the other side of the parkway they'd arguably shorten the signal queues by eliminating the adjacent set of parkway lights and directing more traffic clear across Lakeview to Wall. Also something ID'd in the past as a tidy-up for the messy layout.

People refused to give up their God-given right to take any instant-gratification shortcut, even when its very existence makes aggregate traffic worse by sticking a second set of traffic signals on the parkway where there doesn't need to be one. But it took an accident of this magnitude and newsworthiness to get the village to *consider* the possibility of closing a surplus-to-requirement crossing. And just consider; chances are the instant-gratification mob is going to beat that change back too once public comment has run its course.

Cleveland St. is in exactly the same boat, in exactly the same village. That shouldn't exist at all when adjacent Legion Dr. bridges over the tracks. Ditto Green Ln. in Bedford Hills with its crippled northbound-only parkway access 3/4 mile up and 3/4 mile down the road from 2 real full interchanges.


That's 3 out of electric territory's 9 public crossings that any traffic engineer would objectively say have no reason to exist or make traffic worse by existing than if they didn't exist at all. The only reason they persist is "Me! Me! Me!" and local interference making it impossible for state-level agencies like the MTA and NYSDOT to manage their own state-level transportation assets. Yes, one crossing elimination in isolation isn't going to have measurable effect on the aggregate. But three completely useless crossings closed? Now we're starting to add up some maintenance savings, safety precaution savings, liability savings. How about four closures? Brewster isn't completely devoid of options for offsetting the loss of Ellen Ave. hillside parking should that crossing be closed to vehicle traffic, and the 2 houses up there can easily have their driveways snaked through the backside of the hill. That one would've been on the table for closure years ago if locking horns with "Me! Me! Me!" mentality at the town level weren't such a thankless and ultimately futile task. 5 crossings--pared to the essentials--between NWP and Southeast instead of 9 is a whole different ballgame. Now you actually have rolled up enough savings to bank some budget for improving the sightlines and road geometry at Virginia Rd., or install quadrant gates and advanced crossing detection at Lakeview and Jay St. @ Katonah. Or starting to save some money in the piggy bank for an eventual road bridge at Roaring Brook Rd. for safe access to the rehab hospital and high school.

Can't do any of that or shift real budgetary investment over to the critical-most crossings where the upgrade and SGR money does the most good when the state's hands are tied over chintzy crap like townies' overinflated sense of entitlement over their lazy neighborhood shortcuts.

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by Tommy Meehan » Wed Dec 23, 2015 8:54 pm

I don't disagree that perhaps the Cleveland Street and Commerce Street grade crossings should be closed. However, having lived many years in this area and being familiar with the neighborhoods and the people who live in them, it's not cut-and-dried.

Both streets are part of the local street network. Cleveland Street serves as an outlet for the housing area (and recreation department baseball field) south of Valhalla train station. It provides access to the train station, to the parkway and to the small shopping district in Valhalla village. The Town of Mt. Pleasant has said they are looking at closing the Cleveland Street grade crossing; some residents say they'd be okay with it, others think it's not a good idea. First, going from South Kensico to Valhalla village via Legion Drive is a roundabout route. Worse, the connecting streets, High Street and Howard Avenue, are narrow residential streets and not really suitable for through traffic. Below is a Streetview photo of High Street about two blocks from Cleveland Street crossing. It's a narrow, steeply-graded street. At night or in rainy weather it's a street you want to avoid. When there's snow forget it. After plowing the street is not wide enough for two cars to pass at any more than a crawl.

Image

The Commerce Street crossing is a part of a local route connecting parts of Greenburgh such as Mayfair Acres and the Westchester Medical Center with the village of Thornwood and the many businesses located along the part of Commerce Street located in Thornwood. I'm sure most of the traffic is headed between those two areas and not the parkway. When I've driven across the Commerce Street crossing that's where I was headed. If they closed the Commerce Street crossing traffic headed to or from Thornwood or Pleasantville would have to use Lakeview Avenue but there is no direct route from Lakeview Avenue to Commerce Street. You have to use Wall Street. This is a local residential street and, as you can see in another Streetview I'm posting, is not suited for through traffic. The alternate route would be to have traffic use the Taconic State Parkway between Lakeview Avenue and Commerce Street. That would mean a lot of traffic driving a very short distance on a parkway designed for through traffic. You might be just substituting one set of problems for another.

Image


That's the whole dilemma here. If there were simple solutions they'd probably already have been done. But there are no simple solutions.

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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by LastStopValhalla » Fri Apr 14, 2017 10:22 am

Lincoln78 wrote:The fact that there has not been a mishap at that crossing in along time suggests to me that it is generally safe. Not sure how many near misses there have been. Looks like it is a reasonable distance from traffic lights and other conditions that would set up an incautious driver. Grade crossing elimination will certainly reduce crossing mishaps but as has been noted many times it is not always practical. People need to remember "don't stop the tracks, ever."
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) lists one other reportable incident at that crossing in their database that runs from 1975 to today. On October 10, 1984, a utility van driver ran the red flashers [no gates there yet] and was struck on Track 1 by a northbound Metro-North commuter train. There were no significant injuries on the train, and the only occupant in the van, the driver, was critically injured and died in the hospital two weeks later without regaining consciousness. (FRA report attached)

I found no other news articles mentioning collisions at this crossing in either The New York Times nor in the (possibly incomplete) online archives of The Journal News.

As for near accidents- who knows. That is one of the most troubling things about grade crossing safety research. There is just no straightforward way to determine it. The only hint of the occurrence of such incidents are Metro-North maintenance reports that record crews fixing broken crossing gate arms.
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Re: Major grade-crossing accident in Valhalla 2/3/15

Post by Backshophoss » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:42 pm

From the WCBS news stream,The report on this accident is about to be accepted by the NTSB board's next meeting on 07/25/17
from the investigation team.
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