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As if two fatal accidents weren't enough yesterday, southbound Amtrak Auto Train 53 hit a downed tree on the tracks.  Thankfully no derailment, but it took 5 hours to either verify no damage or repair damage and re-start.  53 is due in at Sanford,FL 45 minutes ago, now projected ETA is 4:10 as it is near Savannah, GA at present (10:45am).

Just a bad day for Amtrak.

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Man....when it rains it pours.....

Our last AT trip a few years ago, the northbound train was delayed due to a grade crossing accident on the previous southbound trip.

The train arrived at 5 PM (scheduled departure time), and they turned and burned and we left Lorton at about 7:30. We had arrived at the terminal at 1 PM that day.


It always seems that disasters come in threes.  This is probably wrong but I don't know.  The common cause in two accidents was unprotected rural grade crossings.  I don't know how railroads can fix this since there are thousands of these crossing throughout the country.  We probably don't hear much about an accident when a freight hits a vehicle because so few people are involved.  I would think that there are many more vehicle / freight train accidents than Amtrak accidents just because there are so many more freight trains operating every day.   NH Joe

All three incidents took place on trackage not owned by Amtrak. Amtrak has one grade crossing on the NEC and a handful on the Amtrak/MDOT-owned Michigan line from Porter, IN to Dearborn, MI.

Railroad crossing safety improvements are mainly funded by the federal government's Section 130 program, although the freight railroads also spend millions each year protecting their grade crossings. In FY22, $245m of dedicated funded from the federal government was set aside to be given to states for grade crossing upgrades.

The derailment of the Southwest Chief in Missouri is a particularly troubling case. That grade crossing in particular was highlighted by the state of Missouri in a report published earlier this year in need of $400,000 worth of improvements in order to be made safe (SOURCE). Additionally, the grade crossing sat at the top of a steep hill, often causing the trucks that used the crossing to stall out.

Although it is the responsibility of the state and local government to maintain railroad crossings, there are certainly steps railroads can take to increase safety at grade crossings. Again looking at the Southwest Chief derailment, the local farmers that used the road petitioned the owner of the tracks, BNSF, to trim foliage along the right of way to allow for better lines of sight. Without being able to see the tracks due to the overgrowth, and the lack of crossing gates, many drivers were crossing the tracks blindly (SOURCE).

gunrunnerJohn. the railroad does own and maintain the grade crossing signals. the state DOT has the final say on what kind of installation ( unprotected , lights or lights and gates) for  each crossing and the FRA has to approve the devices and installation . the railroad also has to contribute towards the cost as well. I am a retired railroader who was involved in the process. Rick

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