Local News

Durham Train Crossing Rings With False Warnings

Posted November 11, 1998

— Cry wolf often enough and you will get ignored. Car alarms, warning lights on dashboards and alarm clocks get ignored all the time.

Some railroad crossings in North Carolina could be added to the list. With enough false warnings, people will stop caring until enough people get hurt.

Amtrak's Carolinianzips through downtownDurham. All of the crossing gates, and warning lights worked. However, the warning lights at Liberty and Railroad streets flashed for four hours Wednesday morning without a train passing through.

Confused drivers hesitated, then drove through. Eventually, a Durham police officer came out to help the traffic pass through. Neighbors say this happens all the time.

"Yes, just about twice a week," Durham resident Jesse Reade said. "I don't know what throws them off. Any little fraction will throw them off."

It is just a few blocks from the site of afatal train/truck accidentin June. Durham transportation engineers say they have fielded dozens of calls about the Liberty intersection, and several others.

Norfolk Southernowns the equipment. Durham officials say the railroad is often unresponsive when the city passes on the complaints. The city is worried about the message being sent to drivers.

"They should fix it just for the lack of respect that it ends up creating by motorists," transportation engineer Ed Sirgany said. "They see these signals going off and yet no train is coming, and they start to wonder how often does this happen?."

"You see that is what's going kill somebody," Reade said.

There was no answer all day at the Norfolk Southern hotline provided by the city. Workers at their small plant in Durham said they could not comment on the situation. They provided another number to call, but no one answered that line as well.

The city says that the railroad tells them that they get to problems as time and money dictates.


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