Unique Safety Barricades Tested at Mich. Railroad Crossing

March 5, 2008

Automated safety barricades typically reserved for directing traffic are being tested in a unique pilot program at a suburban railroad crossing to see if they can deter drivers from crossing train tracks when the gates go down.

The barricades activate and rise out of the ground when a train passes. Previous technology used static barriers to discourage drivers from crossing tracks.

Cameras will monitor driver behavior, and results will be submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration, says K. Michael Bedore, rail capital programs manager for the Michigan Department of Transportation

“The idea of the project is to see if we can uninhibit one bad decision to go around the gates and get hit,” Bedore said.

The nation saw 2,466 train/vehicle crashes resulting in 309 fatalities and 874 injuries from January to November 2007. Michigan had 58 train/vehicle crashes, resulting in three deaths and 14 injuries over the same period. Full-year statistics are unavailable.

The barricades, called delineators because they rise from the ground to mark boundaries, have been placed in Van Buren Township, about 30 miles west of Detroit. The area sees about 10 trains pass through each day.

The system features yellow delineators installed at the center line that go back 100 feet from the crossing, red delineators parallel to railroad gates and cameras that monitor driver behavior made active by passing trains.

MDOT volunteered to host the test site for the $257,000 project sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration and Norfolk Southern Railway in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration. The state is responsible for 70 percent of the cost, while the federal government covers the rest, says MDOT spokeswoman Janet Foran.

“We offer a variety of climates, and Michigan is often on the cutting edge of technology,” she said.

The barricades initially were installed in December but were sent back to Columbus, Ohio-based developer Intelligent Perimeter Systems for fine-tuning.

“We’re tweaking everything before we put it into full operation,” Bedore said. “We think this has great potential to save lives.”

Mike Korodi, IPS president, says train/vehicle accidents happen every three hours in the U.S., and there “has not been a new safety device in the railroad crossing industry for many, many years.”

“It takes time, and technology has to be right and cost-effective. We have reached a point where we do this right and it is cost-effective,” Korodi said.

The project runs through spring 2009.

Received Id 1147691526 on Mar 03 2008 12:36

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