Archive for Monday, September 3, 2012

Rural train crossing to get safety upgrade

September 3, 2012


On a wintry afternoon, more than 1 1/2 years ago at a rural Douglas County railroad crossing, a train collided with a pickup truck, killing the driver of the truck.

Now the state, county and BNSF Railway Co. are close to reaching an agreement that will put signals and gates at the track crossing at East 950 Road northwest of Lawrence.

“I would hate for anyone else to go through what the last couple of years have been,” said Tom Snyder, the father of Kyle Snyder, a rural Lecompton man who was 22 at the time of his death.

On Feb. 4, 2011, Kyle Snyder’s northbound pickup collided with the eastbound BNSF train at the crossing, which has a sign but no flashing lights or gates.

Authorities said that icy and snowpacked conditions contributed to the crash, and the train’s engineer and conductor said the pickup was unable to stop at the crossing and slid in front of the train.

After their son’s death, Tom and Laury Snyder urged officials to make the crossing safer.

But the traffic count, which was estimated at fewer than 40 vehicles and five trains daily, did not trigger the ability to tap federal funds to pay for the lights and crossing gates, according to Mitch Sothers, coordinating engineer with the Kansas Department of Transportation.

So, the county applied for funding under a program where the Kansas Department of Transportation provides 80 percent of the funding for the improved crossing and BNSF provides 20 percent. The total cost should run about $250,000, Sothers said.

KDOT and BNSF have agreed to that, and now all the paperwork is getting approved. Once the agreement is executed, BNSF will have one year to install the flashing lights and gates, Sothers said.

“It will improve the safety,” Sothers said. “It will give people on their approaches, advanced warning of a train,” he said.

Joe Faust, a spokesman for BNSF, said he was not familiar with the particular crossing but said state and local officials make the call on the level of protection needed at a railroad crossing. BNSF would be responsible for installing and maintaining the equipment going forward, he said.

Snyder said the key improvement will be the flashing signal because it will give drivers a warning before they start descending the hill.

Snyder also wants the road closed to traffic during inclement winter conditions because of the dangers of the hill and railroad crossing.

“A school bus cannot be traveling down that hill,” he said.

Terese Gorman, Douglas County engineering division manager, said officials are discussing the best way to close the road during winter weather conditions.

“There is agreement from all parties, that is the prudent thing to do this winter,” Gorman said.


blindrabbit 5 years, 4 months ago

Crossing is dangerous for several reasons: Firstly, because both the track and the road are little used, it leads to driver complacency. Secondly, as the driver approaches the track from the South (heading North) the visibbility to the tracks both to the East and West is limited because of terrain and vegetation, Heading North to the problem about visibility is not an issue. Thirdly, and most importantly in this case, the driver slid onto the tracks because of slope and icing conditions and just happened to meet the train. Not sure what good lights and a crossing barrier would have done to prevent this unfortunate incident. Seems like the North facing slope allowing little sunshine to aid snow and ice melting will not be corrected by this "solutiion".

Matt O'Reilly 5 years, 4 months ago

The lights will help the visibility issue a bit, but I do agree with you on the gates-they're not meant to physically stop a car that's sliding or wants to get through, so they won't really help.

blindrabbit 5 years, 4 months ago

Correction: My 4th line "Heading North" should be changed to: "Heading South from the North" the problem about visibility is not an issue.

thebigspoon 5 years, 4 months ago

Very unfortunate accident. That crossing has been there for many years and this is the first one I can remember at that crossing and I have lived in that area for 53 years. When it is slick everyone must slow down when headed North at that crossing. School buses have been using it for years as well.

gbulldog 5 years, 4 months ago

Several years ago, my uncle was in a cab of a locomotive that was unable to avoid hidding a car with an elderlly couple that did not stop at a crossing. All we seem to discuss is the people that are killed, but not the effect of the train crew and the emergency personnel that have to clean up. Every day, I see stupid decisions on the highway such as driving over the speed limit in rain and following to close. Feeling more important than those around you will get you killed.

riverdrifter 5 years, 4 months ago

Bingo! I've been over that road many times and often thought it was an ideal place for a disaster. The crossing flashers accomplish little. When it snows the township needs to get out there ASAP and blade it before it gets snowpacked and icy. I would hope that when BNSF installs the flasher system they will also clear the crossing of brush and trees to increase visibility.

Horsewagled 5 years, 4 months ago

If the Feds weren't dirty de-icing B-4 trains rolled through would be mandatory.

The signals give 25 seconds warning (don't trust them) that the $10 crossbucks we paid the railroad $500 for don't.

Somebody tell me why these railroad thieves aren't in prison for fraud pricing on these $40,000 projects!!! 6’ x 8’ STEEL BUNGALOW, with GCP UNIT and SEARII Reporting Unit, with Modules & Program required to control warning devices as shown, Chargers & Battery necs., etc $ 54,217.00 FLASHER & GATE SIGNALS, with 12” LED Lights, All Aluminum Gate Arms, LED Gate Lights, Signs, Bells, with any side lights as per State Specifications. $21,316.00 SIGNAL GROUND MATERIAL, Foundations, Underground Wire & Cable, Guard Rails, Multi Shunt Boxes at approaches, Track Connectors, Bond Wires, wiring materials, etc. $ 21,677.00 Freight Charges $ 4,361.00 10% Material Contingency Fee $ 9,721.0 PROJECT MATERIAL, Cover Rock or Fill Material necessary, 220 Volt AC Service Pole, Directional Boring with 4” PVC Pipe as determined by Railroad, etc. $ 34,000.00 MATERIAL SUB TOTAL = $ 1 4 5 , 2 9 2 . 0 0

KCS LABOR with Additives, all Signal Dept. Personnel required for Administration, and for Field Installation, testing and cut-over as directed by the Signal Engineer. 12d $ 40,777.00 EQUIPMENT CHARGES, for Signal Dept Pickup Trucks, Backhoes, Boom Trucks, etc. $ 12,285.00

KCS PERSONAL EXPENSES, for all Signal Dept Personnel $ 6,230.00 CONTRACT ENGINEERING, for Layout Design, Quote Plans, Material Lists, Layout Plans & Estimate, Shop Wiring & Field Construction Plans as directed by the RR (JaKay) $ 17,500.00 CONTRACT ACCOUNTING, Project Cost Tracking System through the life of the project, Completion Reports and assist Accounting with Final Billing preperation. (BHS) $ 5,000.00 UTILITY COORDINATION, arrangements for new electrical service, relocation of utilities, arrange for rock & fill material, project coordination as directed by the RR (JaKay) $ 3,500.00 FIELD INSTALLATION CONTRACTOR, to provide equipment & personnel as required by the KCSR Field Installation Bid Request package for the signal installation. NO CHARGE LABOR SUB TOTAL = $ 8 5 , 2 9 2 .0 0

$ 230,584.00

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