Tag Archives: Highway-rail grade crossing closure

Biloxi, MS: -6+2 = a good deal

7 Feb

Biloxi’s city administration is working with CSX to determine how the number of level crossings in the city can be reduced and traffic flow improved. With 29 level crossings across the city the preferred outcome would see six or more crossings eliminated with two replacement crossings constructed.

The new crossings would be located on the planned extensions of Popp’s Ferry Road and Pine Street. At present the specific crossings targeted for elimination have still to be identified. However, with 20 level crossings in the east of the city between Porter Avenue and Oak Street this CSX corridor looks most likely to deliver options for closures sufficient to justify the new level crossings.

 

 

Now road traffic counts are on-going, the results of which when combined with accident histories should lead to the identification of specific crossings for closure.

30 Nov

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has granted CSX Transportation’s petition, submitted in March 2014, to close the level crossing at Bloomingrove / New Winchester Road in Washington Township to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The decision belatedly follows local public meetings in July 2014 and an evidentiary hearing in March this year.

The closure of the level crossing was opposed by Morrow County Commissioners, officials and residents despite a lack of demonstrable need for the crossing to remain in use.

In announcing its decision, PUCO stated that the passive crossing is currently ranked 110th most dangerous level crossing in Ohio out of approximately 5,800 crossings. PUCO also said that there is no documented accident history at this crossing. Closing the crossing will not have any significant impact on the operations of the local fire departments and EMS services, according to PUCO.

The PUCO said that they considered the traffic moment, speed of trains, poor sight lines, the distance between the tracks and the skewed nature of the crossing; thus determining that the is level crossing to be particularly dangerous.

 

 

 

 

Royston, GA: Crossing closures generate opposition

14 May

Plans to close four level crossings in Royston have generated opposition including from volunteer firemenn concerned at the impact on their response times. Other opposition comes from some affected residents and businesses which feel they will be disadvantaged by the plans of the Hartwell Railroad.

The Hartwell Railroad has asked the city council to close crossings at Bowers, Carlton, Tony Jones Street and that Highway 17 and Lee Street. A decision on this is expected on May 26th, taking account of views represented at the recent public hearing. Also, it will need to consider the views of officers and the availability of options other than the proposal of the Hartwell Railroad

Canada: Incompatible government policies – change isneeded

11 May

The story that follows is an opinion piece by Michael Bourque, the President and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada. recently published in the Regina Leader-Post:

See Tracks, Think” was the message of the recent Rail Safety Week, devoted to educating the public about dangers associated with railway crossings.

People should think “train”, “danger” or “death” when they see tracks. They should think about the impact a lack of awareness around railway property can have on them, their family, the community and railway employees.

The Transportation Safety Board lists railway crossing safety as an issue that poses a great risk to Canada’s transportation system, and one that needs addressing immediately. Roadway-railway crossing accidents account for nearly 20 per cent of all rail accidents in Canada, and sadly, 30 per cent of these accidents result in death or serious injury. Last year, 21 souls were lost to railway crossing accidents in Canada. (In Saskatchewan alone in 2014, there were 33 accidents, two fatalities and seven serious injuries.)

Over the last 10 years, crossing safety in Canada has generally improved. Accidents have decreased thanks to railways’ investments, new regulations and joint industrygovernment efforts like Operation Lifesaver, which educates the public about trespassing on railway property and the hazards at crossings.

But the number of crossing incidents is not decreasing. In 2014, there were 180 crossing accidents in Canada, a total similar to the previous year, and to the five-year average. This is not surprising, due to record levels of road and rail traffic. But the trend is worrisome, and will not improve unless activity at crossings declines.

The opening of new crossings has contributed to this issue. When the Canada Transportation Act was passed in 1996, it gave the Canadian Transportation Agency the authority to order a railway company to build a suitable private crossing if it “considers it necessary for the owner’s enjoyment of the land.”

At the time, nobody foresaw an increase in new crossings. Nor did they consider the severe impact of these crossings on safety and railway capacity. But communities have since grown in proximity to railway lines, traffic has increased at Canada’s tens of thousands of existing crossings, and additional crossings have been built to relieve traffic congestion in many municipalities. So as Canadians increasingly rely on rail, the best way to improve public safety and railway capacity is to reduce the number of crossings.

Unfortunately, the existing regulatory approach for opening and closing rail crossings in Canada is standing in the way of this goal. Under it, Transport Canada has the authority to close grade crossings, while the Canadian Transportation Agency has the job to open new crossings – without the need to assess public safety.

This dichotomy in authority jeopardizes public safety, and has led to some counterproductive outcomes. In one case, the agency ordered CP to open a crossing just after Transport Canada had ordered it permanently closed for safety reasons. New crossings should only be approved as a last resort and if no alternatives exist. If a new crossing opens, an existing one should be closed so there is no net increase to the number of crossings.

While safety should be the main motivation for closing crossings, there is also an economic argument. The economy depends on Canada’s railways to move 75 million people and more than $280 billion of goods each year. Crossings have the effect of slowing rail traffic for people and goods. Accidents affect people, railway employees, communities, the environment and business. Railways need to maintain fluidity on their mainline tracks in order to deliver high levels of service to customers. Stretches of track are like highways; when an accident occurs, the network gets clogged, resulting in negative economic outcomes.

Transport Canada should maintain its authority to close all unsafe crossings. It regulates the overall safety of crossings in Canada, understands the associated dangers of railway crossings, and has developed regulations and grade crossing closure and upgrade programs to deal with this issue.

In addition, sole authority to open new crossings should be given to Transport Canada so public safety is always considered in the approval process for new crossings.

The Canada Transportation Act review that’s under way should consider how to reduce the number of rail crossings, and how to apply appropriate protections to those that remain.

Organizations like Operation Lifesaver help raise awareness about this issue, but these efforts get curtailed if crossings continue to open without consideration of public safety. Operation Lifesaver’s network – railway companies, labour groups, police and volunteers – hosts more than 500 rail safety activities across Canada each year. Since 2003, when Rail Safety Week was launched, crossing accidents in Canada have been reduced by 28 per cent.

This outreach has resulted in progress. If these efforts continue, and the regulatory regime evolves, we can improve crossing safety in Canada.

The closure of private level crossings is a cost-effective route to eliminating a large reduction in the number of level crossings against the background of any new level crossing requiring the closure of at least two through a consolidation scheme. There is no case for any new level crossings that does not effect a net reduction of level crossings on any railway system, certainly not in the developed world.

As towns grow, developers should be funding additional grade-separated crossings of the railway, not adding to the number of level crossings on the pretext that such crossings are necessary to allow the landowner to fully benefit from the land owned. Where land is to be developed, planning gain needs to be used to fund grade-separated routes across the railway. Or, at the very least, to enable the crossing to be upgraded to a safer form.

Maxton, NC: Opposition to crossing closure risks bigger inconvenience if three are closed instead

25 Apr

Maxton has three level crossings of the CSX Transportation (CSX) right-of-way and risks all three being closed if it doesn’t go along with the proposed upgrade of two crossings and the elimination of the third. CSX has offered to fund the upgrades of two of the crossings which are to be found on North First, North Third and Brooklyn streets.

Now, local politicians have failed to agree on a way forward as representations are being made that closure of the level crossing on North First Street will bring with it hardship to residents which is expressed in a 150 signature petition. Ironically, the original proposal was to close the North Third Street level crossing; but, this was switched to North First Street be causes of opposition to the original proposal.

Next step, talks between City administrators and CSX.

Blue Springs, MS: Crossing upgrade approved

25 Apr

Union County has approved an agreement that will see the level crossing on County Road 265 in Blue Springs upgraded with the addition of half-barriers on what is at present an active open level crossing. In addition, the roadway will be widened an highway approaches improved. The upgrade has been secured in part through an agreement with the Mississippi Department of Transportation that the level crossing on County Road 253 will be closed. Indeed the closure has been implemented

Bluff City, TN: NS fails to secure crossing closure on risk grounds

23 Jan

Despite a significant accident history and concern that a fatal accident will occur, city fathers in Bluff City, TN, rejected the case for closure put forward by Norfolk Southern Railway Co  (NS). The proposal to close the passive Depot Street level crossing that provides a link between Tennessee Avenue and Railroad Street. Use of the crossing is said to be around 300 vehicles a day, most of whom use the Depot Street crossing when taking a short cut.

Despite financial incentives proffered by NS and the possibility of federal funding for the crossing elimination of the level crossing and help in guiding users to cross the NS right-of-way via active crossings there was a sense that the Mayor and Aldermen wanted the crossing upgraded to an automatic half-barrier status. There is also lingering resentment of the way in which NS refused to co-operate with a property transaction to facilitate a connection with the Overmountain Victory trail. So, from an outsider perspective, this appears to be blocking a rational considerate of the risks associated with the Depot Street closure proposal.

Other issues of legitimate concern to the city was the impact on emergency service response times and impact on premises accessed via the crossing. However, a key user considered was the First Baptist Church which was strongly in favour of elimination on safety grounds. In conclusion of this debate, the city fathers voted to put the crossing closure proposal on the ballot for the May 2015 elections.

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