CSX to repair rail crossing signals Accident disabled warning lights in Hampstead

November 22, 1995|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

CSX Transportation Inc. will repair the warning signals at the Route 30 railroad crossing near the south end of Hampstead by Nov. 29, more than two weeks after a traffic accident damaged a signal pole and knocked the crossing's red flashing lights out of service.

In the meantime, all CSX crews have been operating under a "stop and flag" order, meaning that all trains stop before crossing Route 30 and deploy a flagman to halt traffic, said Kathy Burns, a CSX spokeswoman.

The warning devices were damaged Nov. 12. Kenneth F. Russell, chief of the Hampstead Police Department, said town officers have since tried to be in the area of the crossing to assist with traffic safety whenever trains are passing through.

"I drive down there when I hear the train coming," he said. "Freight train schedules are not as precise as passenger trains, but we know about when they are coming through."

Hampstead officials have fretted over the damaged crossing lights because northbound traffic backs up about a quarter-mile from the traffic signal on Route 30 at the Roberts Field Shopping Center during the afternoon rush hour, and some drivers stop on the tracks.

A CSX freight train crosses Route 30 about 4 p.m. daily.

The repairs are necessary because one of the two poles supporting the flashing signals was broken off and the electric power line to it was severed.

"Apparently, the local power company may have to provide new service if repair crews are unable to splice the power line to that pole," Ms. Burns said.

At the railroad crossing, where there have been five fatal accidents in the past seven years, the flashing signals are to be upgraded to a fully activated gate crossing with overhead lights, bells and signals, town officials said.

Neil Ridgely, town manager, said Monday that Hampstead's request for the upgraded candelabra lights and crossing gates was placed on the State Highway Administration's tentative installation schedule for the 1998-1999 fiscal year.

"I believe that time frame has been moved ahead to the 1997-1998 fiscal year," he said.

John Healy, a spokesman for the highway agency, confirmed the speed-up in installation, but he said the cost of upgrading the crossing signals has not been determined.

"The electronic circuitry may be 20 years old and need to be replaced," he said. "It's just too early to know what it is going to cost."

Mr. Ridgely said the town also was pursuing state money for a new crossing signal by enlisting the aid of Del. Richard N. Dixon, a Democrat from New Windsor who is a ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Chief Russell said he had received complaints from train crews about drivers' too often ignoring the flashing signals and venturing across the tracks in front of trains.

"CSX officials said cars were so close as they crossed the tracks that crewmen were able to copy the license tag numbers," the chief said.

Most of the problems at the railroad crossing stem from impatient drivers' trying to beat the trains, Chief Russell said.

Trains have a 30 mph speed limit through the area, the chief said, "but I honestly have never clocked a train with my radar traveling faster than 28 mph."

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