Ashland plans to install new railroad crossing bars

ASHLAND, VA (WWBT) - Ashland Town Leaders are ramping up railroad safety efforts.  They are hoping to put a stop to two main safety issues. One is people driving through the crossbars once they've already come down. The other is people taking the turn at Route 54 too fast and turning onto the tracks instead of onto the road.

The crossing bars come down, but it's clear to see they don't stretch far enough across the road to prevent cars from weaving through.  No one broke the rules while our cameras were rolling, but Rowan Davis works right beside the tracks and says she's seen that and more happen.

"I've definitely seen people try and beat it when it's coming down, and people have gone around before, and sometimes I've even seen people run across it," Davis said.

Ashland town leaders believe installing new double crossing arms at all of the town's railroad crossings will help.  They want to start here at Route 54 because these signals already contain technology they can add to for about $80,000.  It will cost between $250,000 and $300,000 at the other crossings.

"I think that's a great idea; I'm really glad that they are doing that," Davis said.

This step will also help maintain quality of life in Ashland.  The town has a special designation so train operators can't lay on the horn during certain times of the day.  That could be in jeopardy if the town starts to see a number of accidents at railroad crossings.  Another issue police are working to tackle is people driving on the tracks, especially at night at the Route 54 crossing.

"Cars drive down between the train tracks; it's double tracks, and they turn too soon; it's probably been five or six instances this year," said Lt. James Shelhorse.

Some paving and reflective painting improvements have been put in to help drivers see better but police believe the new bars will help too.

As for the funding, the Department of Public Works is looking into some grant opportunities in order to offset some of the costs of this project.

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