(Ashdown, Arkansas – October 19, 2012)
The city council of Ashdown, AR will meet in a special session this coming Thursday, October 25 to consider an offer made jointly by the Kansas City Southern Railroad and the Arkansas Highways and Transportation Dept. to place flashing lights, bells and gates at the railroad crossing of KCS tracks and two city streets, one of which is considered to be the most dangerous crossing in the state of Arkansas, on the condition that the city allow closure of two other crossings.
The West Locke Street/Front Street crossing, which currently is “protected” only with standard, passive railroad crossbucks, is known as the state’s most perilous, having experienced a total of 17 accidents, resulting in three deaths and four non-fatal injuries, since the Federal Railroad Administration was established in the early 1970’s. Most of the statistics have occurred since 2003, however, and all entities involved are concerned that without the addition of active protection, more accidents are possible.
In addition to the Locke/Front Street intersection with KCS, full protection would also be added at Fulton Street, which is also currently protected solely by crossbuck signs, while the crossings of Whitaker and Commerce Streets would be closed.
Allegedly, the railroad is offering the city of Ashdown, which is just barely in Arkansas, located only a few miles from both Oklahoma to the west and Texas to the south, an incentive of $100,000 to authorize the closure/protection improvement plan, but it is unsure as to whether that money would go to the city for discretionary use, or if it would be included in the cost of the proposal, which would also include federal and state funding administered by the AHTD. Regardless, Steve Weston of the AHTD said that “closing railroad crossings eliminates maintenance and liability for the railroad.”
According to the FRA, 20 KCS trains pass through Ashdown daily at top speeds of 55 mph.
Two public meetings on the proposal will have preceded the vote by the city council next week. Should the council vote to accept the offer, a timetable for the closures and protection upgrades will be developed by the railroad, state and city authorities.