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NCDOT holding public hearings about Durham railroad crossings

Posted November 28, 2011

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— The North Carolina Department of Transportation is holding three public hearings about the safety of 18 railroad crossings in Durham. This month's election has added new urgency to the search for solutions.

Voters recently approved a tax that will pay for a new transit plan, including commuter and light rail, which could mean 80 train trips a day along the tracks, between Neal and Cornwallis roads, according to Bill Kalkhof, president of Downtown Durham Inc.

“How do we make sure that benefits downtown without dividing downtown?” he asked.

Railroad crossing Durham plans for safer railroad crossings

Kalkhof says he wants better road surfaces, pedestrian crossings and signals in the short term. In the long term, “we're either going to have to go under, over or around downtown,” he said.

Kalkhof says it's a delicate balance between safety and keeping traffic flowing smoothly.

“I'd like to think with creative minds and (a) big enough checkbook, we can accomplish both,” he said.

Engineers want to avoid train-car collisions like the one that killed two young brothers at a railroad crossing on Ellis Road nearly two years ago. 

Calvin Brandon, 9, and Hassan Bingham, 6, both of Durham, were thrown from their mother's Ford Explorer when an Amtrak train bound for Charlotte hit the SUV.

Durham police said the crossing arm came down on Deborah Peaks Bingham's windshield as she was stuck in traffic at the Ellis Road crossing between Angier Avenue and Pettigrew Street. She tried to back up and move forward to get off the tracks, but the train hit the back end of the Explorer before she could finish maneuvering.

Investigators said the boys weren't wearing seat belts. Their mother was treated at Duke University Hospital and released. No charges were filed.

Sandra Stepney, with the NCDOT rail division, engineering and safety branch, says her division is looking at the possibility of rerouting traffic or building a bridge over some railroad crossings.

Citizens can share their thoughts with the NCDOT at the following workshops, which will be held from 5 to 7 p.m.

Monday: Downtown Durham (Gregson to Driver streets) at the Durham Armory, 212 Foster St.

Tuesday: Western Durham (Neal Road to Buchanan Boulevard) at the Hilton Durham (near Duke University), Trinity Ballroom, 3800 Hillsborough Road

Thursday: Eastern Durham (Ellis to Cornwallis roads) at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Hamner Conference Center-Glaxo Galleria, 15 T.W. Alexander Drive, Research Triangle Park.

The same information and display maps will be available at all three workshops. NCDOT representatives will be there to answer questions and receive comments. Interested citizens may attend at any time. No formal presentation will be given.


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  • yournot Nov 29, 2011

    You have to be kidding. My tax payer money goes to this? Her kids were in the back seat with no seat-belt and so we are all paying for her stupidity? Look, the laws of man do not supersede the laws of physics, buckle up! If you are too stupid to figure out that you cant stop on the tracks, and you are hit, you should get no more chances, you should lose your license. Those railroad crossing barriers are designed to break, just plow through them if you get stuck between them, it's better than losing your life. This is personal responsibility, like paying attention when you drive, seriously, how do you overlook an oncoming train? You have to be blind or a fool, either way, get off the road, turn in your license and stop driving if you can't handle the basics. This goes triple for you text-and-drivers.

  • wepage4 Nov 29, 2011

    The crossing shown here on Ellis rd has gotten much better with the lights. Why can't the train car switching be moved a few hundred yards back instead of building another new rd.? Aren't they already buying property to expand the 147 expressway to connect to hwy 70? Which would eleviate most if this crazy traffic at the Ellis rr crossing?

  • mfarmer1 Nov 28, 2011

    >> "stop complaining about taxes, they're the lowest they've ever been."

    really? there was no national tax before 1862. north Carolina tax was introduced in 1777. The percent of each person has been taxed has grown almost each year to include adding new "Creative" taxes enacted by the democrat party.

  • mfarmer1 Nov 28, 2011

    I am not sure why we are subsidizing buses, and now the public will be subsidizing a light rail. sounds like another wast of money.

  • Obama 2012 Nov 28, 2011

    "boneymaroney" What about roads? What about aviation? Both are subsidized by the taxpayers. At least with light rail, rail, and mass transportation, you can make up some of the money lost, and it is much cheaper and efficient to run. And it costs money to be competitive as a state, and as a country, so stop complaining about taxes, they're the lowest they've ever been.

  • boneymaroney13 Nov 28, 2011

    What are these "light rails" going to be able to do that the city busses can't? They are both to be burdons on the tax payers.

  • dgcreech Nov 28, 2011

    I don't mean this disrespectfully at all, but if I were to stop flat on a railroad crossing (which you should never do to start with) and the crossing arms come down - I'm going through it! It might crack the windshield, scratch the roof, or break the crossing arm off - but I'm not going to get hit by a train. Just my thoughts.

  • ncouterbanks69 Nov 28, 2011

    There is now a stop light (finally) at that intersection of Angier and Ellis. It makes it MUCH better and you never see cars "stuck" on railroad tracks anymore. Too little too late but at least something was done. It was so bad there because people would switch lanes and get in front of people that correctly waited before the track. Eventually people started figuring this out and did what they had to do. Those people cutting in front of those of us that waited are as much to blame (more so really) as the trains are.

  • luv2surffish2 Nov 28, 2011

    whats wrong with crossing gates and quit wasting time on money
    on a rail sys for triangle...