Local News

DOT to upgrade rail crossing where brothers killed

Posted April 7, 2010

— The state Department of Transportation and Durham officials plan to improve a rail crossing where two brothers were killed in December when a train slammed into their mother's SUV.

The DOT's Rail Division will rework the railroad signals and synchronize them with new traffic signals at the adjacent intersections of Ellis Road with Angier Avenue and Pettigrew Street. The signals will take into account approaching trains, peak traffic volume and potential delays, officials said.

Deadly RR crossing to get new signals Deadly RR crossing to get new signals

Paul Worley, director of Engineering and Safety with the DOT's Rail Division, said heavy traffic on Ellis Road leads drivers to take more chances at the railroad crossing and end up stopped between the crossing bars.

That's what happened to Deborah Bingham on Dec. 9 when an Amtrak train bound for Charlotte hit her SUV.

Police said she was stuck in traffic at the crossing when the arm came down on the windshield of her SUV. She tried to back up and move forward to get off the tracks, but the train hit the back end of her Explorer before she could finish maneuvering.

Bingham suffered minor injuries, but her two sons, Calvin Brandon, 9, and Hassan Bingham, 6, were thrown from the vehicle and died.

The new signals will give drivers more time to evade an oncoming train.

"When a train comes, it will give early warning to the traffic signals to flush out that intersection of traffic before the gates come down and a train comes through," he said.

The DOT installed "Do Not Stop on Tracks" signs at the crossing two days after the wreck to reinforce a safety message for drivers.

Worley said construction and installation of new traffic signals could take 12 to 18 months, and the project is estimated to cost $500,000.

The DOT eventually plans to close the Ellis Road crossing once an alternative can be developed and funded, officials said. The agency and Durham officials plan to undertake a comprehensive study of all at-grade crossings within the city limits in the coming year to identify near- and long-term safety and traffic mobility needs.


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  • Capt Mercury Apr 8, 2010

    Seems like having 2-ton cars and 2000-ton trains crossing paths is a bad idea in the first place. I understand most European nations did away with "grade crossings" long ago. Here in the U.S., ancient special-interest laws designed to promote railroad development in the 1800's are still an influence. So we can't make trains go over roadways, and we can't get state DOT's to build roadway bridges over trains due to funding shortages. You get what you pay for, or don't pay for.

  • Bendal1 Apr 8, 2010

    The crossing already has arms that extend across the lanes, there were signs and blinkers and bells. Short of a wall that springs up when a train approaches, that's about all that can be done; after that it's up to the driver to figure out if there's enough room to avoid stopping on the tracks or not. As the article said, heavy traffic here encourages drivers to move forward just a bit more rather than staying off the track.

    Some people apparently think DOT should be able to prevent every crash or collision by "being proactive". Please, if you feel this way, go buy a clue because you've got none of your own.

  • icmfal Apr 7, 2010

    you are correct racecity1 and the main thing that killed those kids was a "mother" who "thought" she would clear the tracks but got "stuck in traffic". You never cross railroad tracks in heavy traffic if you "think" you are going to clear them.

    I still feel that it is to bad those kids had to pay for a person's stupidity and risk taking.

  • racecity1 Apr 7, 2010

    um, the childrens SUV WAS hit by a train, but that isn't what killed them. What killed them was that their mom didn't buckle them in and they were throw out of the vehicle.

  • whocares Apr 7, 2010

    That crossing has been dangerous for years. I guess children getting killed is what it took for someone with some sense to figure out that maybe something should be done. Too bad it is too late for those 2 brothers and their mother.

  • CrewMax Apr 7, 2010

    12-18 months? Have they considered going non-union? It would save money and time.

  • sinenomine Apr 7, 2010

    So the new signals, I see, will give people more time to "evade the train".

    I predict that this will do no good. The risk takers will do their thing anyway and they will interpret the new, longer signals as simply giving them more time to beat the train.

  • FromClayton Apr 7, 2010

    i think what posters are getting at is that money could have been better spent... thats a lot of money for a crossing you are going to close anyway.

  • TestForFun Apr 7, 2010

    There is no need for comments to be so cruel! A mother lost her children, and while common sense says it's very dangerous to stop on the tracks, people familiar with the intersection said it was easy to end up there when you thought you'd be able to clear them. I am glad the intersection and signals are being redone to improve safetey.

  • Bob12345 Apr 7, 2010