• Re: Missouri agency never contacted railroad to review crossing, site o

    From lighting tech at Mega Amusement@21:1/5 to governor.swill@gmail.com on Sun Sep 25 06:10:41 2022
    XPost: alt.fan.states.missouri, talk.politics.guns, alt.fan.rush-limbaugh XPost: sac.politics

    In article <t07jb8$29fp0$53@news.freedyn.de>
    governor.swill@gmail.com wrote:

    A dump truck driver thought he could outrun a speeding train.

    In March 2021, a small group of men met at a rural railroad
    crossing in northern Missouri that locals had long been
    complaining about because of its steep grade and lack of

    A farmer leading the effort to improve the crossing was among
    those who gathered at the Porche Prairie Avenue Crossing
    southwest of Mendon. All three Chariton County commissioners
    were there, along with a safety official with the Missouri
    Department of Transportation and a representative from a local
    engineering firm.

    In the wake of Monday’s deadly Amtrak derailment that killed
    four people and injured 150, last year’s meeting at the crossing
    has taken on new meaning and importance. Not only for the
    desperate call to fix and improve the crossing but also for the
    fact that no one did.

    “We had high hopes that something was going to get done there,”
    said Paul Speichinger, a Chariton County farmer, who wasn’t at
    the meeting but has complained about the crossing over the
    years. “We really hoped and anticipated that we’d have something
    done last fall, and the commissioners have been on the officials
    to get something done.

    “But it fell on deaf ears.”

    In fact, their efforts ran into a wall of state bureaucracy, The
    Star has found.

    That meeting at the crossing last year did possibly prompt the
    state, in July 2021, to place the crossing high on its priority
    list to make it safer.

    But that didn’t mean the fix would come anytime soon.

    Unbeknownst to the community, because of budget constraints and
    the slow pace of government projects, any safety improvements
    would still have been years away.

    Although residents complained about the crossing for years, BNSF
    Railway, the railroad that owns the track, told The Star that
    the Missouri Department of Transportation had not — even up to
    the day of the crash — contacted them to conduct an official
    review of the site that is required before any repairs are

    “I can tell you that we have not been contacted over this
    crossing to work on a diagnostic review,” said BNSF spokeswoman
    Lena Kent. “That is a critical step of this process to move

    “You can’t just, you know, have somebody out there say, ‘Hey, I
    think we need gates,’ and the next day we show up with some
    gates. That’s not how that works. You have to go through that

    The Missouri Department of Transportation has authority over
    public railroad crossings and runs the state’s railroad safety

    A MoDOT spokeswoman confirmed that although MoDOT alerted BNSF
    earlier this year that the crossing has been put near the top of
    its priority list to be fixed, the agency had not yet contacted
    the railroad to conduct a review of the site.

    “It was approved last July (as a priority) and our staff reached
    out,” MoDOT spokeswoman Linda Wilson Horn said Tuesday of BNSF.
    “The diagnostic review has not been scheduled yet.”

    Did MoDOT ‘drop the ball’?
    For residents like Mike Spencer, who farms 1,600 acres around
    what he has long viewed as a potentially deadly crossing, word
    of the state’s inaction came as a shock.

    He was the Mendon resident who last year stood at the crossing
    with the county commissioners, an area engineering firm
    representative and a MoDOT railroad safety specialist. Spencer
    said he initiated the meeting with MoDOT in the expectation that
    the state and BNSF would soon fix the dangerous crossing.

    Everyone — MoDOT, the commissioners, the engineering
    representative — agreed that changes needed to be made.

    “They were right on board,” Spencer said of the commission
    members. “They were like, ‘Oh yeah, this has got to be fixed. We
    are going to do whatever we can.’”

    Presiding Commissioner Evan Emmerich has notes from that
    meeting. He detailed how the crossing was “very steep” and
    needed to be addressed. And that it is “difficult to see” at
    that location because “the gravel road and railroad intersect at
    an angle.”

    “MoDOT still has the crossing on their list to repair,” Emmerich
    wrote in his notes. “But no timeline was given to us.”

    After that meeting, Spencer and others in the community felt
    change was coming. Soon.

    But then Spencer would check in with the state month after month
    and nothing was happening. He said he was first led to believe
    that the project was stalled because of MoDOT budget constraints.

    He said he was later told by MoDOT that the crossing
    construction had been “tabled,” leading him to surmise that the
    delays were due to the railroad. Earlier this year, he asked if
    the tall brush surrounding the tracks could at least be removed,
    because it obscured drivers’ views of oncoming trains. Still
    nothing happened.

    Residents continued to complain as recently as last month. The
    Chariton County Commission emailed MoDOT about the brush on May
    23. When MoDOT didn’t respond, the commission emailed BNSF a
    week later.

    As recently as Monday, Spencer was placing full blame for the
    crash on BNSF for not fixing the crossing.

    “Now I’m wondering if MoDOT didn’t drop the ball on us,” Spencer
    said, “and maybe nothing was ever in the works to get anything

    ‘A couple of years’
    For its part, the agency said it was in the process of
    correcting the crossing. But because of the way the system
    works, nothing was going to happen immediately.

    The first step is for the state to identify a potentially
    dangerous crossing and decide it is a priority to be fixed. That
    happened for the Mendon crossing in July 2021. The next step is
    to schedule a “diagnostic review.”

    In a review, officials from the railroad, MoDOT and the
    government body that owns the road visit the crossing and
    determine what is required to make it safe. Together, they then
    draw up a plan for whatever is needed: lights, bells, railroad
    gates, changing the grade of the road, perhaps even eliminating
    the crossing.

    None of that happens fast.

    “It usually takes a couple of years to have a plan and designs
    ready for a contractor to do the work,” Horn of MoDOT said.

    The actual construction adds even more time. MoDOT, Horn said,
    has limited funds to improve crossing safety. It has $7.5
    million a year, receiving $6 million each year in what are known
    as Section 130 funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation,
    and $1.5 million through a state fund.

    Because each crossing improvement project costs $400,000 on
    average, the state can only add lights, gates, bells, or do road
    repairs on 20 crossings a year.

    According to a draft version of the Missouri Highway-Rail Grade
    Crossing State Action Plan, the state has nearly 4,400 public
    rail crossings. Some 1,600 crossings in the state do not have
    lights and gates.

    In the five years between 2016 and 2020, 37 people have been
    killed and 89 injured at crossings in Missouri.

    Tremendous wreck
    Spencer does not hold BNSF blameless in this week’s deadly wreck.

    The railroad, he said, has long been aware of the steep grade at
    the crossing, making it difficult for trucks or heavy farm
    equipment to climb to the top of the tracks and over. According
    to the presiding commissioner’s notes, the commission first
    spoke to Spencer about the crossing in December 2019.

    “He has been in contact with the railroad but said they were not
    being very cooperative,” Emmerich wrote.

    The dump truck involved in Monday’s wreck was owned by MS
    Contracting in Brookfield. It was hauling a load of shot rock to
    a nearby levee under repair by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    On Monday, Spencer was at a restaurant in Columbia when his
    phone erupted with calls and texts about the crash at the
    crossing. The derailed train cars spilled into his fields.

    “I texted him,” Spencer said of the MoDOT rail official he had
    worked with. “I said, ‘OK, the crossing that we’ve been
    concerned about and that you all said wasn’t going to get
    completed: Now it’s going to make national news because I
    understand there’s been a tremendous wreck.’

    “He’s not texted or called me or nothing.”


    30 June, 2022

    BNSF is responsible for maintenance of their track
    infrastructure. In areas like the accident site, track
    inspections are done frequently due to the frequency of freight
    trains and the daily Amtrak passenger operation. As stated by
    numerous comments, Missouri DOT and local agencies share
    responsibility in upgrading crossings and there is a
    considerable list of "uncontrolled" ones to improve. The loss of
    life of the truck driver and 3 passengers is a sad fact. Though
    a survivor, the locomotive's engineer will be haunted by the
    accident for the rest of his or her life. I've ridden in
    locomotive cabs of passenger trains in the USA and in Canada, at
    speeds above 60-70 mph. Even with a clear view of the track
    ahead, slowing down to a low impact speed requires 90 seconds to
    2 minutes and at least a half mile when moving at 90 mph which
    is the passenger train maximum timetable speed for this section
    of BNSF. Engineers qualified to run passenger trains have earned
    that position and very often have the most seniority on a
    railroad. It is a challenging occupation requiring skill,
    training and attention to detail.

    30 June, 2022

    The town could have easily just raised the road on each side of
    the crossing to make it much easier for trucks to cross.
    That's something the farmer could have done by simply going to a
    town meeting and pushing it. Simply looking at the map of the
    area and you can see there's a lot of crossings like this.
    Small dirt roads going to farm fields. Also I have yet to see
    the "brush" they are talking about. There's two sets of tracks
    and any brush/trees are at least 15 feet away from the tracks on
    each side. That's close to the range of what track based
    railroad brush clearing equipment can reach. I'm curious what
    the crossing on Newhall road looks like since the driver could
    have use it instead.


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