(Ypsilanti, Michigan – February 4, 2014)
Ypsilanti, MI City Manager Ralph Lange promised after Tuesday’s City Council meeting to convene the city’s Traffic Safety Committee in order to look into safety options for serious problems at the River Street/Cross Street/ Norfolk Southern Railway grade crossing in the heart of the Depot Town shopping and entertainment district where a mother from Milan, MI and her 14-year-old daughter suffered injuries when Amtrak’s “Wolverine” passenger train struck and heavily damaged their vehicle this past Saturday.
Although having considerable light and gate signalization at the crossing, the concerns are that the oddly-configured intersection and its protective devices actually contributed to rather than helped prevent that accident, as well as others, including one in March of last year.
Neither victim’s name has been released to the news media, but the mother, described as being in her late forties or early fifties, said she didn’t realize she was actually parked on the snow-obscured railroad tracks, thinking instead that she was stopped behind the crossing gate in her direction of traffic, when she actually was behind the gate in the opposite direction. The train, one of a half dozen Amtrak trains that cross daily at a top allowable speed of 80 mph, struck the rear passenger side of the vehicle, tossing it into the air, but, fortunately, not overturning it. An additional eight freight trains also cross the same intersection, but usually at lower speeds.
The city manager said that once the committee is convened, “I’ll ask them to take another look at it (the problematic crossing),” and that “We’ll follow up on that and I’ll get the public safety people on that” as well. The tracks cut through the street intersection at an angle.
“That’s not the first time that’s happened,” said Lange in reference to the Saturday accident as well as a collision between a NS freight train and a vehicle in March of last year at the same location. In fact, Lange admitted to being uncertain as to how many collisions have occurred at that crossing, but said that he was aware of at least “a couple of times” such had occurred in the year and a half he’s lived in the city.