NCDOT holding public hearings about Durham railroad crossings
Posted November 28, 2011
Durham, N.C. — 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.
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.