Discussion relating to the operations of MTA MetroNorth Railroad including west of Hudson operations and discussion of CtDOT sponsored rail operations such as Shore Line East and the Springfield to New Haven Hartford Line

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, nomis, FL9AC, Jeff Smith

  by Head-end View
As a matter of principle I think the crossing should have been equipped with a bell in addition to the lights, gates etc. Until this incident I had thought bells were standard at all crossings with automatic protection, but I've since discovered that the Federal Manual doesn't require a bell; leaves it up to the Railroad's discretion. However, I don't believe it would have affected the outcome in this case.
  by DutchRailnut
a bell is usually only used on crossings with reasonable pedestrian traffic, this crossing would not need it.
  by Rockingham Racer
Bells won't help a situation like this. Not stopping on the tracks WILL, though. BTW lots of crossings in the Chicago area have signs posted on the crossbucks for the dummies who insist on stopping between the gates, and they say "Don't stop on the tracks." I don't think this is an instruction in a states' drivers' manuals, but it probably should be.
  by Head-end View
Bells are helpful to drivers as well as pedestrians. They can be heard some distance from the crossing and are an additional aid besides the lights in attracting the attention of an approaching driver. At least I find them helpful. :wink:
  by DutchRailnut
lets look at what is required, not at what could/would/might be.
  by Head-end View
Well Dutch, here on Long Island bells are standard on LIRR as far as I know. I've never seen automatic crossing protection operate without them. So they may not be required but where I come from, they seem to be standard equipment. :wink:
  by DutchRailnut
We are not part of Wrong Island Rail Road .
  by justalurker66
DutchRailnut wrote:a bell is usually only used on crossings with reasonable pedestrian traffic, this crossing would not need it.
In my experience, nearly every crossing I have seen that has lights has a bell. The one crossing I remember that does not have a bell is in a downtown area where there is pedestrian traffic (enough traffic that there are pedestrian gates - similar to the gates that close over the road but smaller - but no bell). It caught me off guard as (in my experience) I expected the crossing to have a bell and it did not.

There are crossing with only a crossbuck (no lights, bells or gates) so obviously there is no national requirement that every crossing have a bell (or lights). One should check the vehicle code for their state to see if there are any minimal standards for their state.

In my experience, the bell sounds while the gates are in motion and (at most locations I have observed) stops ringing when the gates are fully down. At some locations the bell rings continuously. At many locations I have observed the bell is no longer a bell but is an electric device that sounds like a bell mounted at the top of one of the crossing arm supports. At some crossings there is only one "bell" (generally single tracks where it can be heard on both sides).

Your experience may vary.
  by LastStopValhalla
I grew up with a single track grade crossing in Park Ridge, NJ on Park Avenue- NJT Pascack Valley Line, ex-Erie, E-L- that had flashers, gates and an electric bell. However, it was on a main street and had a sidewalk over it also. IIRC all of the Pascack Valley Line crossings have flashers, gates and a bell.
  by truck6018
Rockingham Racer wrote:...... and they say "Don't stop on the tracks." I don't think this is an instruction in a states' drivers' manuals, but it probably should be.
From the NY State driver's manual:

Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to cross any railroad tracks unless you are certain your entire vehicle will clear all of the tracks at the crossing. You cannot go across any railroad tracks unless there is room for your vehicle on the other side. If other traffic prevents you from going fully across, wait and go across only when there is room.
  by LastStopValhalla
This is how NTSB acting Chairman Robert Sumwalt opened the hearing this past Tuesday. I don't think there is any ambiguity in his message.

To quote from Operation Lifesaver: "Do not get trapped on the tracks; proceed through a highway-rail grade crossing only if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides."

It doesn't matter how clear the tracks look. There is never a reason to stop your car within a grade crossing boundary, either on or off the track itself. And certainly, no driver should ever enter or remain within a grade crossing once the warning system activates. Those crossing gates can usually be broken through with your car.

The next train is always coming. It's just a matter of when.
  by Tommy Meehan
The NTSB reportedly found another factor with the accident is a faulty traffic light system.
A faulty traffic control system might have led vehicles to back up at a Metro-North crossing in Valhalla in February 2015, contributing to a crash that killed the driver of an SUV who had pulled onto the tracks and five train passengers...The NTSB said a preemption system designed to clear traffic from the crossing ahead of an oncoming train had not been set up to take priority over another traffic-control pattern at the intersection, in violation of federal standards, a Journal News review found. The state Department of Transportation is responsible for the parkway and traffic signals at rail crossings. Link
In other words, the sensors that modify the traffic lights should be set up to change the lights on Commerce Street to green when a train is approaching. This would require "preempting" the traffic light on the nearby Taconic State Parkway intersection, which is on a timing circuit. [see below] But the sensors are set up -- in violation of federal safety standards -- to give priority to the traffic flow on the parkway. Another factor was, on the evening when the accident occurred traffic was being detoured over Commerce Street and was backed up from the light at the parkway. As you can see in the not-so-great Google Streetview photo below, there is not room for many eastbound cars to be standing between the parkway and the grade crossing. and on the evening in question there was a lot of traffic on Commerce Street, much more than normal. Testimony of other drivers established traffic was backed up and occupying the grade crossing for a considerable time period before the collision took place. The standard would be (or should be), when the sensors detect an approaching train the light on the parkway goes red and the light allowing traffic on Commerce Street to cross the parkway goes green.

  by DutchRailnut
Actually final report disputes that pre-empt circuit was faulty and traffic at other side of crossing was all gone before train got there.

only pre-empt circuit at fault was going other direction see report, pages 25/26
https://assets.documentcloud.org/docume ... -Crash.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by Tommy Meehan
What I found was, this is from the preliminary report modified June 22, 2017, the traffic signal was adjusted after the crash:
The NYSDOT informed NTSB investigators after the [February 2015] crash that on May 1, 2015, the NYSDOT adjusted the traffic signal preemption at the Commerce Street and Taconic State Parkway intersection to ensure railroad preemption is the highest priority and that successive preemptions cannot interrupt the railroad preemption (see Attachment 23 - Email from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to NTSB Investigators dated June 9, 2017 at 7:37 a.m.) Link
In your link it states:
  • Preemption #1 - activated by loop detector in the pavement of the southwest approach to the grade crossing
    Preemption #2 – activated by railroad train detection circuit .
    Accident examinations revealed
    ‒ Preemption #1 did not comply with MUTCD
The sensor referred to is in the southwest corner of the intersection. Wouldn't that control eastbound traffic on Commerce Street?
  by DutchRailnut
click link and see picture, nuff said
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