Editorial Roundup: Safety improvements needed at train crossings

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Last week, four people were killed and 150 injured in Mendon, Missouri, when an Amtrak train struck a dump truck at an uncontrolled rail crossing and derailed.

The tragic accident highlights the need for ongoing safety improvements at railroad crossings across the country, including here in Minnesota.

The number of crossings with no warning devices might surprise people. Across the country, less than half of the 129,500 public at-grade crossings have no warning devices that could save lives, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Of those with warning systems, 35% have flashing lights and gates, the safest types of crossings, while 16% have flashing lights with no gates.

There are also more than 80,000 additional railroad crossings on private roads, most of which don’t have automatic warning devices.

While many of the crossings with no warning devices are in rural areas, they are also relatively common in urban areas.

Vehicle-train collisions, or pedestrian accidents, are not a rarity, according to National Transportation Safety Bureau data.

Last year there were over 2,000 collisions with vehicles or pedestrians that killed 236 and injured 662.

When train-vehicle accidents occur at night, half of the time it’s because a vehicle ran into the train. Installing more warning lights at crossings that don’t have them would obviously reduce the number of those accidents significantly.

Adding automated warning devices at crossings is not cheap. In Minnesota, adding warning devices can cost a half million dollars or more, but some projects can be done for much less.

Because of the cost, adding more safety systems to railroad crossings can’t be done all at once. But federal and state agencies do need to systematically provide ongoing funding to focus on improving the most dangerous crossings and use lower cost systems that provide at least some added safety.

Mankato Free Press, July 5

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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