Thursday, June 19, 2003

Site of fatal crash had lights, no gates

By Stephenie Steitzer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Every day, 30 trains - more than one every hour - pass the crossing on Maher Road in unincorporated Boone County south of Florence.

Yet there are no gates, only flashing lights and bells, at the site of a train-car collision Tuesday that left a mother and her two young daughters dead and her toddler son critically injured.

That is because Kentucky receives only $1.2 million each year from the federal government to install warning devices at more than 2,300 public railroad crossings in the state, transportation cabinet official Roy Johnson said.

But Johnson acknowledged Wednesday that most crossings with that much train traffic usually are equipped with gates.

"That is above average in a given area," he said. "Is it an extraordinary number? No. Is it a lot? Yes. We try to put the gates where you get the most automobile traffic and the most train traffic."

Johnson said 422 crossings in the state have gates, flashing lights and bells, while 793 have flashing lights and 1,178 have signs or no warning device at all.

Norfolk Southern spokeswoman Susan Bland said train traffic on the line that crosses Maher Road is heavy, but that some lines carry as many as 100 trains per day.

She said the train that struck the Nadler family's car was carrying steel coils from Middletown, Ohio, to Rockport, Ind.

While the Maher Road intersection sees heavy train traffic, vehicle traffic is lighter.

A Federal Railroad Administration report from 1997 said about 1,000 vehicles cross the tracks daily.

Two other accidents, including one fatality, have occurred at the Maher Road crossing since 1975.

In all of Boone County, one person died in one of 10 train-vehicle accidents from 1993 to March 2003.

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