Cleveland railroad crossing one of the most dangerous in the country

Feds report Bessemer Ave. crossing in top 15

CLEVELAND - According to reports from the Federal Railroad Administration the train crossing near the 8200 block of Bessemer Avenue in Cleveland is one of the most hazardous in the country.

The FRA report showed the crossing listed in the top 15 of locations with 12 or more incidents over the past 10 years.

Nationally recognized railroad safety expert Bob Comer said FRA reports indicated 34 accidents at the crossing since 1980, including a collision between an Amtrak train and car in Dec. 2015.

Fortunately, there were no serious injuries in that accident.

Comer said the Norfolk Southern crossing is in compliance with all federal safety standards, but he explained collisions continue at the location for a number of reasons.

"The crossing at Bessemer has a jog in the road, and has hump or rise in elevation," said Comer. "There are industrial properties on all sides, and high brush and trees blocking visibility. There must better signage well before drivers get on top of the crossing, to help prevent these accidents."

Comer said some cities are even installing traffic lights at crossings, which he said correlate with on-coming trains.

News 5 took this case to Ward 6 Cleveland Councilman Blaine Griffin.

Griffin said he grew up in the area, and admitted the intersection is in need of additional safety measures. He pledged to take safety concerns to Cleveland traffic commissioner and safety director in the coming weeks.

News 5 reached out to Norfolk Southern to see if the company had any thoughts on how to work with Cleveland to improve safety.

Norfolk Southern issued the following statement in response to our story:

"Norfolk Southern’s top priority is safe operations, and we always are open to working with communities to enhance public safety around our tracks. That’s the case at the Bessemer Avenue grade crossing in Cleveland.

Within the next month or so, Norfolk Southern expects to begin work on a project at the crossing to install new gates with lights, new left-side cantilever/overhead devices with flashing lights, and new signal circuitry. The cantilever devices will be placed on both sides of the crossing, increasing visibility of the crossing for motorists. Highly visible and efficient LED lights will replace incandescent warning lights now being used. The crossing also will be equipped with bells that will sound to warn of approaching trains.

Norfolk Southern expects to have the new warning devices installed no later than mid-February of 2018. NS communications and signals employees are doing the installation.

NS has agreed to share in the costs of these improvements through an initiative with the Ohio Rail Development Commission. The ORDC will cover 75 percent of the costs through a Federal Highway Administration program that provides funding to eliminate hazards at highway-rail crossings. NS will pay 25 percent of the costs.

This partnership grew out of discussions that have included city representatives, including an April 2016 field review of the crossing to identify safety issues and potential remedies."

Meanwhile, Comer said something must be done as soon as possible.

"If we don't take action, we're just waiting for the next accident to happen," said Comer. 

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