Baton Rouge railroad crossing ranks 8th nationally for most accidents

Baton Rouge railroad crossing ranks 8th nationally for most accidents

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The railroad crossing at the intersection of N. Foster and Choctaw has ranked 8th in the nation for highest number of incidents, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The report from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released Thursday shows the top 15 crossings in the U.S. where 10 or more incidents have occurred during the last decade.

In ten years, there have been 13 accidents at that spot. According to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the number one cause is drivers in a rush.

"Knowing where repeat injuries and fatalities occur helps states focus their time and resources on areas where they can have an impact," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Preventing incidents and fatalities at railroad crossings is one of the Department's top priorities, and I urge states to work with FRA to achieve this life-saving goal."

In the accident reports filed by FRA, common trends can be found like drivers failing to yield to the train, or the rear end of vehicles getting hit because of a failed attempt to beat the train.

"Even if the odds are in your favor, when you lose, you lose bad," said DOTD spokesperson Rodney Mallett. "So it's not something that anybody should do."

Louisiana Operation Lifesaver (LA OL) is an organization that hopes to raise awareness about safety at rail crossings. They say people often misjudge slow moving trains, which move at around 20 miles per hour.

"Trains are very large and very heavy, and they can't stop quickly," said Claude Maher, executive director for LA OL. "If a vehicle is struck by a train, the occupants of the vehicle are forty times more likely to die in that collision than they are if they are involved in a collision with another motor vehicle."

Fortunately, there have been no injuries or deaths at the Choctaw rail crossing over the past ten years. However, Louisiana ranks fifth in the nation for the number of deaths at railroad crossings in 2014.

In 2012, the city of Baton Rouge made improvements to its technology at all of its rail crossings. Since then, there have only been three accidents at that location.

Even so, DOTD is also looking into further improvements.

"We could possibly put some additional signage or striping," Mallett said. "That's something we'll work with the city and the community to look at. But the main thing is for people to be aware of the tracks."

According to the DOTD, the state has spent around $9 million over the last three years on rail crossing improvements.

"I urge our state partners to join FRA in taking additional actions to improve crossing safety. I know that, together, we can do more to save lives," Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg wrote to states in a letter. "FRA is ready and willing to help our partners in any way we can."

The FRA recently awarded nearly $10 million in grants for nine projects in eight states to increase the safety of railroad crossings. Baton Rouge is one of the recipient cities for that grant.

A FRA held a press conference with U.S. Congressman Garret Graves, R-Louisiana, in February to discuss the safety upgrades in the Capital City. Officials announced that nine railroad crossings were selected for upgrades, while six other crossings would be closed.

All of the crossings selected for closure are located in the lower half of the Government Street track.

Officials have not announced when work on the project will begin.

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