Rail crossing

A railroad crossing in the Lloyd community of Greenup County is prompting safety concerns because of the lack of lights and crossing bars. Photo by Charles Romans. 

A railroad crossing in rural Greenup County — with no lights or crossing bars — is drawing increased scrutiny given community growth in the immediate area.

The railroad crossing in question is off Lerita Streeet in Lloyd. Both Greysbranch Elementary and Greenup County High School are within driving distance. School buses do not cross at the railroad crossing, but parents do have to cross it to bring their kids to meet the school buses.

There is a stop sign and yield sign at the crossing but no flashing lights or bars that drop when a train is near. The situation prompted discussion recently at a Greenup County Fiscal Court meeting about ways to work with the railroad and the state of Kentucky to fix it.

"We've got to do something," said Bobby Carpenter, fiscal court judge executive, who referred to the crossing as the Queen's Landing crossing. "I've asked the railroad, Highway Department..we've got to have some lights and bars on that crossing down there. There are too many families living over there now."

Greenup County plans to write a letter to the railroad about seeing what can be done. It turns out, CSX said it is committed to safety and is working with the state. The state, meanwhile, said it is applying for federal funding to help upgrade the crossing.

"Engineers at Highway District 9 are working with Greenup County officials on this issue, assisting them and regional transportation planners (KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission) in applying for federal funds to upgrade the crossing, said Allen Blair, spokesman for the Transportation Cabinet, in an email to The Daily Independent.

"If approved, the federal funding could lead to a quicker turnaround on an improvement project,” Blair said. "If not, the crossing will continue to be evaluated annually as part of the cabinet's statewide Rail Safety Program and will be upgraded when it becomes eligible.”

The Daily Independent submitted questions in writing to the Transportation Cabinet about the crossing. With help from the Transportation Cabinet’s Division of Right of Way and Utilities, the cabinet provided the following answers:

Question: Is the state the one that makes the determination of whether crossing bars and lights are needed?"

Answer: "All public at-grade railroad crossings in the state are assessed annually and ranked based on a mathematical hazard index that factors in items such as vehicular traffic, train traffic, number of tracks, sight distance, crash history, etc.. The most hazardous are selected to receive upgrades. With the amount of funding received as part of the Rail Safety Program from the FHWA, only 8-10 crossings from around the state are typically able to be upgraded each year. This crossing has not been in the top thus far, but as with all crossings, it is reevaluated every year.”

Question: Is the state the one that makes the determination of whether crossing bars and lights are needed?

Answer: "While the RR could add warning devices to crossings, they do typically defer to the State agencies."

Question: Has the state ever assessed whether this crossing needs lights and safety bars -- if so what was the determination?

Answer: "All public at-grade RR crossings in the state are assessed annually and ranked based on a mathematical hazard index that factors in items such as vehicular traffic, train traffic, number of tracks, sight distance, crash history, etc.. The most hazardous are selected to receive upgrades. With the amount of funding received as part of the Rail Safety Program from the FHWA, only 8-10 crossings from around the state are typically able to upgraded each year. This crossing has not been in the top thus far, but as with all crossings, it is reevaluated every year.”

Question: What would it take to put safety bars and lights at that crossing?

Answer: "Each crossing upgrade typically costs around $250,000. As part of the normal Rail Safety Program, it is hard to predict when a particular crossing will reach the top rankings due to the parameters constantly shifting at not only the crossing in question, but every other crossing in the state as well. If federal funding is able to be secured, KYTC will work with the Railroad to have the upgrades installed as soon as practical. If not, the crossing will continue to be evaluated annually as part of the Rail Safety Program and will be upgraded when it becomes eligible."

CSX said safety is its highest priority. CSX spokesman Christopher Smith said the company works consistently with with other freight railroads, customers, public officials, law enforcement agencies and communities to reduce the number of crossing accidents in the communities where they operate.

Determinations about the need and type of of traffic control devices required to alert drivers to the presence of railroad tracks and to the possibility of an approaching train at highway-rail grade crossings are the responsibility of state agencies,. Smith said.

"Once a determination has been made, CSX will work closely with the state transportation department, local roadway authorities and community to design and install the requisite devices. CSX urges motorists and pedestrians to approach all highway-rail grade crossings with caution and

to look and listen for train traffic at all times when crossing the tracks,” Smith said.

Trains do blow their whistles as they roll through the area but the track is slightly elevated and it can be difficult to see. Carpenter said a solution is a priority. He said one area resident called him recently and said she works as a nurse -- a job which requires her to drive across the tracks in the early morning hours in the dark. The woman said she has to stop and listen for a train because she can't see.

"There are too many families living over there now. I don't know -- I've just got a bad bad feeling, and we want to get something done," Carpenter said.

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