Posted in: Safety,
by Gregg Laskoski on Apr 6, 2013 06:00 AM
On Dec. 30, 2012 a vehicle by occupied by four kids in their late teens and early 20s tried to cross the Metro North Commuter Railroad tracks at the Long Ridge Road crossing in Redding.
The railroad's investigation indicates that the existing warning lights at the crossing were flashing when the car drove across the tracks. In fact, all of the train's warning systems —bells, whistles and lights— were operational at the time of the accident. The driver, 19, and a passenger, 21, were killed. Two others were severely injured.
Was the driver distracted? Music was "blaring" from the stereo of their Subaru when it struck the train according to the Danbury News Times. Is the railroad somehow at fault here?
You might be surprised to hear what CDOT says. Judd Everhart, director of communications, offered the following:
"...Gates were to be installed as part of a larger project that will be completed in 2014. As a result of this tragedy, it was decided to expedite the gate installation. Each crossing is evaluated individually to determine what type of equipment should be installed. Of the 673 at-grade crossings, the DOT is responsible for 71 of them (the rest are owned/maintained by AMTRAK or are on privately owned lines around the state). Of the 71, 61 have flashing lights and/or gates; the remaining 10 only have stop signs because of the very low volume of traffic. There are no current plans to add flashing lights or gates at those 10 crossings."
So at just 1 of 71 RR crossings in Connecticut, the DOT says it will take this step. The cost of the gate-installation project at Long Ridge Road in West Redding, CT, is about $800,000. This work would include the installation of 2 new gates, three flasher assembly poles, a new housing unit and railroad circuitry.
That raises some questions that Everhart declined to answer. Is this simply a PR move?
We asked Everhart: Does it serve the public interest to spend about $800,000 on gates there?
By planning such gate installation(s) is the Connecticut DOT saying that (the existing warning system) flashing warning lights are insufficient safeguards for motorists? Or is it saying that Connecticut motorists simply are not bright enough to heed the warning of flashing lights at railroad crossings?
The fact that this "step" was taken at just one RR crossing in the state suggests that state DOT is not the party who was truly at fault here.
For the record, local media was able to find locals who criticized the RR. Redding resident Leon Karvelis commented on Patch.com that "it is irresponsible of the transit agency to fail in protecting motorists on a fairly active grade crossing."
Sooner or later, drivers need to take responsibility. If you ignore flashing lights, bells and whistles working to warn you of an oncoming train, is that really the RR's fault if you suffer consequences? Is the 'nanny state' responsible for your bad judgment?
The RR's action is undoubtedly a good one that is appreciated, we hope by local residents too, but it also appears to be a token gesture to appease misplaced public criticism.