Railroad crossing without gates is risky

WATCHDOG

November 07, 2006

THE PROBLEM -- A CSX railroad crossing at Todds Lane in Baltimore County's Rosedale neighborhood does not have gates, and people who work in nearby offices are concerned about recent accidents involving motorists crossing the tracks.

THE BACK STORY -- Neill Christopher, vice president of operations of Arcadia Windows & Doors, reports safety problems with the railroad crossing near several businesses on Todds Lane, off Pulaski Highway, and he would like a gate there to help prevent cars from being hit by trains. There is a white wooden crossing sign, a red stop sign and a sign that warns: "Trains cross hourly. One could be now."

Baltimore County police report two accidents there this year - June 21 and Aug. 2 - in which pickup trucks were hit by trains and motorists were seriously injured.

"The county recognizes there is a safety issue," said David Fidler, a spokesman for the Baltimore County Department of Public Works. He said officials are trying to determine whether the county owns the land on either side of the CSX-owned crossing, which would allow it to apply for state and federal funds to install the gates. That money cannot be spent if the land is privately owned.

Installing gates would be part of a larger project to connect Todds Lane, which currently dead-ends, to Kelso Drive, attracting more businesses to the growing industrial area. That would also eliminate several other ungated crossings on nearby roads - there was a fatal accident involving a train on one last year - and funnel motorists to the better-controlled crossing at Todds Lane.

Robert Sullivan, a spokesman for CSX, said company officials are researching the issue. "We will meet with local officials to find a solution that best addresses the matter," he said.

WHO CAN FIX IT -- There is no one person who can resolve this issue, which is mired in bureaucracy from agencies that include the Baltimore County Department of Public Works, the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration, and CSX.

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