Proposed NC bill would shorten wait times at railroad crossings, add sensors for safety

Monique John Image
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
NC bill would shorten wait times at railroad crossings
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Prolonged wait times at railroad crossings have long frustrated drivers and business owners in Fayetteville

Prolonged wait times at railroad crossings have long frustrated drivers and business owners in Fayetteville. That's why a state lawmaker has introduced a bill to shorten the length of trains passing through the city.

State Representative Howard Penny says House Bill 639, the Railroad Safety Omnibus Act will make communities safer and mitigate frustration.

"If we're blocking intersections and EMS workers or fire and EMS cannot cross that because the rails are blocked and then they're trying to find out the next logical place, that can cost people their lives," Penny said.

Penny and Rep. Mike Clampitt wrote the bill. Penny points out trains rolling through cities like Fayetteville and Dunn often are as many as three miles long. This bill would cut trains down to 1.61 miles to travel through the state. Lisa Reid, the 911 police communications manager for the city of Fayetteville, says she supports the effort, but notes shortening the trains wouldn't solve everything.

"We would definitely have to evacuate if we had a train derailment or some kind of chemical spill in the area. And trying to get to the other 911 center which is the county's 911 center," Reid said. "(W)e'd first have to navigate these two railroad tracks which we're situated between."

The measure also calls for sensors to be put on either side of railroad tracks. The devices would be able to detect if equipment is overheating, a feature that could avoid dangerous derailments like the ones that happened in Ohio earlier this year. Penny says that despite this effort, he supports our railroad system.

"That's the way you move the most tonnage in the most economical way. Somewhere along the line, economics is great, but safety has to take a higher priority in my opinion," Penny said.

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