Updated railroad crossing data shows different results

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, July 12, 2016

DEAD END: A Norfolk Southern train passes by the W. Sycamore Road crossing closed in 2004, according to updated data from the FRA.  Photo by Julia Arenstam

DEAD END: A Norfolk Southern train passes by the W. Sycamore Road crossing closed in 2004, according to updated data from the FRA.
Photo by Julia Arenstam

Two weeks ago, the Item reported several discrepancies with the official records from the Federal Railroad Administration highway-rail crossing database.
The Item mistakenly used outdated data collected from the FRA Office of Safety Analysis Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory Data website. Since the article’s publication, the FRA stated that data was not current.
According to the FRA, the most current data should have been found through the Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory forms, also found on the department’s website.
Those forms are completed by each state’s Department of Transportation and the railroad operating the crossing, said Tiffany Lindemann, a public affairs specialist with the FRA.
The majority of the form is completed by the state’s DOT, with part II containing railroad information to be completed by the operating railroad, such as Norfolk Southern, which operates the majority of the railways in Pearl River County, said Lindemann.
The companies operating on the railroad also own the railroad tracks and are therefore required to maintain FRA safety standards, said Lindemann.
“The railroad is required to update its information every three years,” said Lindemann. “There is no requirement for state agencies to provide updated crossing inventory information.”
She also said that Congress has gone back and forth with the demand for each state’s DOT to update their information.
In 2008, Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act to mandate updated crossing inventory forms from each state’s DOT. However, it was repealed by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act by Congress in 2011, said Lindemann.
The state’s DOT determines whether to install warning devices, such as lights and gates, at public crossings with input from other stakeholders such as railroads and local governments, said Lindemann.
“At a minimum, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices requires that passive crossings have crossbucks (the familiar x-shaped signs that mean yield to the train) and a yield or stop sign,” said Lindemann.
In the previous article, it was reported that the crossing at Minckler Road was not listed in the FRA database. This information came from the outdated sheets obtained from the website.
However, the crossing was found in an updated Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory form listed as a private crossing going into Couplin Trailer Park in Picayune.
The form states that the crossing was revised Jan. 1, 2014 by the railroad, Norfolk Southern.
Charlie Schielder, the Pearl River County road manager, said that Minckler Road is a public county-maintained road until it crosses the tracks.
It was also reported that the Poplar Street and W. Sycamore Road crossings had been closed in January 2007, by the Picayune City Council.
According to the current crossing inventory forms for both Poplar and W. Sycamore, they were revised by the state in June 2004 and marked as closed.
The inventory form for the Texas Flat Road crossing was revised Feb. 1, 2016 by the railroad and marked as a new crossing. Part II of that form, filled out by Norfolk Southern, states that there are no signals on that crossing. Yet, other sections on the form filled out by the state previously report that there are advanced warning signs.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

About Julia Arenstam

Staff Writer

email author More by Julia