(Durham, North Carolina – October 6, 2011)
A Norfolk Southern Railroad crossing in Durham, NC which has been described as a “nightmare” for motorists is finally getting coordinated traffic signals to alleviate the confusion it has created in the past. Due to it being located at the convergence of three streets (Ellis Road, Pettigrew and Angier) and the fact that it has been the site of a dozen accidents resulting in three fatalities and four non-fatal injuries, the improvements are long overdue.
On December 9, 2009, the signal situation trapped an SUV driven by Debra Bingham on the NS tracks, only to have the vehicle hit by an Amtrak passenger train traveling at 79 mph. Debra was seriously injured, but her two young sons, Hassan and Calvin, were killed.
The “solution” for that tragedy was the installation of a sign warning motorists against stopping on the tracks. But the traffic signals stayed the same, trapping cars on the tracks because of the red traffic light.
“We did a study of the location and came up with an approach to signalize the intersections on both sides of the track,” said NCDOT Rail Division Director of Engineering and Safety Paul Worley.
Now, nearly two years after the tragedy, coordinated signals for both auto traffic and railroad crossing gates are finally operational. A memorial to the Bingham children, dedicated shortly after the tragedy, is still in place by the crossing.