(Jacksonville, Florida – January 14, 2016)
Thursday evening at about 6:57 P.M., EST, the CSX/Timuquana Road crossing was the site of its first fatality when vehicle traffic trapped the driver of a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV directly upon the single-track crossing that accommodates a daily average of 10 CSX freight and Amtrak passenger trains at a top allowable speed of 70 mph. The SUV was struck by a Sanford, FL to northern Virginia Amtrak train carrying 157 passengers. The presence of close the parallel street of Roosevelt Boulevard to the railroad corridor and highway traffic signals governing the street intersection at the notorious Timuquana Road crossing of CSX Railroad tracks in the Ortega area of Jacksonville, FL likely contributed to the build-up in traffic congestion immediately before impact.
Jacksonville TV News 4 Reporter Nicole Snyder spoke to Jonathan Osteen, a witness who rushed to help the victim. “The only thing that was left of the SUV for him (the motorist) to sit was ‘that’ much space (Osteen demonstrated). “The curtain airbags, the doors and everything were jarred closed; you couldn’t open any doors” continued the would-be rescuer. “The hatchback was popped open, so I was trying to make contact with the victim through the back and I had no response.”
Tragically, Osteen’s efforts were in vain, as the unidentified driver passed away after being rushed to the University Of Florida Health-Jacksonville.
According to FRA records, the road/rail intersection with its lighted and gated crossing devices, traffic signals governing the six-lane Timuquana Road and parallel multiple-lane Roosevelt Road, with virtually no vehice storage space in between, has been historically problematic as the site now (counting Thursday’s tragedy) has seen 15 train vs. highway vehicle collisions. The single death is accompanied by three non-fatal injuries, and the most recent crash before Thursday’s occurred on April 10 of 2015.
In a follow-up report Friday on the tragedy, Reporter Amanda Clark of WJXT, Jacksonville News Channel 4, said that “Now, FHP (Florida Highway Patrol) is taking a closer look at the amount of space given to drivers to wait at the traffic signal between the tracks (and Roosevelt Road).”
In an interview, Florida Department of Transportation official Ron Tittle told Clark that “In this particular area, when you’re talking about the distance and the traffic signal on Roosevelt Boulevard and the tracks here at Timuquana, you’re looking at about 20 feet, so there’s a distance for one vehicle to clear the tracks.”
The FDOT official went on to point out that with only barely enough room for a single vehicle, many drivers stopped on the tracks when the highway traffic light is red. He added, according to WJXT, that “whenever an accident like this happens, FDOT will always investigate what changes can be made to the area to prevent another accident from happening.”