Friday, November 25, 2016

Lack of safety measures at railroad crossings remains a concern and risk in many rural areas

A deadly crash at a railroad crossing last week in
rural Texas (Caller-Times photo by Courtney Sacco)
A lack of safety lights and arms at railroad crossings, especially in rural areas, continues to be a concern in the U.S., Chris Ramirez reports for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Of the 209,000 railroad crossings in the nation, 129,300 intersect with public roads, Only about one-third of those crossings have lights. "In rural areas, it's rare to find railroad crossings with lights and gates to warn drivers of an oncoming train," Ramirez notes.

While the number of crashes at railroad crossings involving vehicles has dropped from 9,461 in 1981 to 2,059 last year—fatalities are down from 728 to 244—data from the U.S. Department of Transportation suggests that is partly because the number of public railroad crossings significantly decreased during that time, Ramirez writes.

The number of crossings without signals and gates has gradually declined on recent decades. "Since 1980, the number of public railroad crossings equipped with automated gates and lights has doubled—from 16,291 in 1980 to 34,296 such crossings in 2000," Ramirez writes. That's also been helped by a move in February from the Federal Railroad Administration to give $10 million to eight states—Arkansas, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin—so they could install gates, lights and other safeguards at railroad crossings along energy transportation routes.

One state not on that list is Texas, which leads the nation in railroad tracks (10,469 miles) and has the highest number of crossings, about 15,000, Ramirez notes. Illinois is second, with 6,986 miles of track, followed by California (5,295), Ohio (5,288), Pennsylvania (5,151), Kansas (4,855), Georgia (4,653), Minnesota (4,450), Indiana (4,075) and Missouri (3,975).

No comments: