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Cutbacks In Funding Puts N.C. Railway Safety At Crossroads

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Cutbacks in funding have put the safety issue at a crossroads.

Imagine you are driving a train and a family of four crosses right in front of you. It happened to Ernie Ringgold.

"The car just disintegrated right in front of me, and there were four lives that were lost there at that crossing that day needlessly," he said.

There are more than 7,000 railroad crossings in North Carolina. Fewer than 2,000 of them have both lights and gates. Officials say fatalities at the crossings have gone down over the years, but so has funding to upgrade the crossings.

"I don't think there's any question that you can always make the railroads safer and save some lives," said Scott Saylor, of the North Carolina Railroad Company.

An event to publicize train safety comes just a day after a crash in Georgia involving a passenger bus and a train. Officials say half of all collisions in North Carolina happen at crossings that have lights or gates.

When drivers often try to beat the train or do not pay attention, Ringgold said the result is sometimes tragic.

"The one thing that really sticks out in my mind is the little boy in the back seat of that car was pointing right at the train on impact," he said.

North Carolina would like to do away with railroad crossings altogether and replace them with bridges that only trains would use, but money remains a question mark.


Scott Mason, Reporter
Edward Wilson, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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