Chesapeake city officials making improvements to railroad crossing where woman was killed

Virginian-Pilot |

--CHESAPEAKE

More than two months after a woman was killed when her car was hit by a train, traffic signs have been updated at the railroad crossing that has no electronic warning devices.

The City Council allocated $250,000 in May to pay for train-activated flashing lights and gates, but that project hasn't been completed.

To better warn drivers, a new stop sign on the South Military Highway side of the tracks replaced a yield warning.

A stop sign facing the other direction that used to be leaning with high grass growing around it has been fixed and the area cleared, said Jennifer Shrader, who lives close to the tracks. .

But there are still no modern stoplights and automatic gates, said Shrader, who started a change.org petition for lights and gates to be installed. To date, it has gotten over 15,000 signatures.

Shrader said she's been in touch with City Council members about the matter and is pleased the city has been working to make the crossing safer. But she has no intention of taking down the petition until the promised improvements are installed.

"I feel like we're moving in the right direction, but now we're almost three months out from when the accident happened and I'm not going to wait until October to see something else get done," she said.

While Shrader has been able to speak with City Council members, she hasn't heard back from CSX, the railroad company that owns the crossing.

CSX is ultimately responsible for signs and signals immediately adjacent to the tracks even though the city owns the road around them, according to Earl Sorey, assistant public works director.

"Per state code, if the owner of the road is willing to fund the full cost of lights and gates, the railroad can be compelled to install those," Sorey said.

The city has been in talks with CSX, he said, but does not yet have a timeline for when the new signals will be operational.

"Obviously we all want to move quickly," he said.

In the meantime, the city has been doing its part to make sure the safety measures they're responsible for at the tracks, like the yellow and black advanced warning signs leading up to the crossing, are clearly visible.

"Immediately following the fatality, we went out and checked to confirm we had all of our necessary signs in place," Sorey said.

For Shrader, who has a daughter the same age as the victim and a son who owns a business close to the crossing, that's still not enough to ensure the crossing is safe.

"Let's not stop here," she said. "I'm not going to wait a year for them to do this.

"This is what I'm dedicating my life to."

___

(c)2019 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

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