Phoenix Rail Crossing May Close if Needed Safeguards Aren’t Installed

May 14, 2018

A Phoenix, Ariz., railroad crossing over a busy road will be shut down if the city doesn’t install long overdue safety enhancements, state regulators said.

The Arizona Corporation Commission, which oversees railroad safety, announced the unanimous vote for the closure in a news release Wednesday. The panel said it will order BNSF Railway Company to close the crossing at 35th Avenue and Indian School Road unless an agreement on safety adjustments is reached by May 19.

A closure would likely create detours and traffic jams for vehicles traveling north and south on 35th Avenue, which connects to Interstate 10.

Commissioners say that city, state and rail officials failed to follow through on improvements proposed in August 2013.

The improvements were to include the installation of a four-lane signal fixture south of the crossing. New signals have only been installed north of the tracks.

“They put a little single signal south of the tracks,” said commission spokesman Nick Debus. “Nobody pays attention to it. People are just constantly running that red light. People don’t know when to stop; that’s the issue.”

The commission feels the confusion at the grade crossing creates a safety issue that must be addressed as quickly as possible, Debus said.

Monica Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the city’s Street Transportation Department, said officials are working closely with the rail company and the commission.

“Our goal is to identify a solution that we can all mutually agree to in order to avoid such a closure,” Hernandez said.

In April 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration listed the crossing as one of 15 in the U.S. with a high incident rate. The crossing saw 21 incidents in a decade. The agency said most of the railroad crossings with repeated incidents were busy, multiple-lane intersections in neighborhoods with more truck activity or tracks crossing roadways on a diagonal.

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