TDOT Reorganizes State’s Railroad Crossing Task Force

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Transportation is reorganizing its Railroad Crossing Task Force.

“At the direction of TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely, members of the Railroad Crossing Task Force will now communicate more frequently, on a monthly basis, rather than quarterly, as in the past,” TDOT Public Information Officer Kim Keelor said. “Perhaps the most interesting new feature of the Task Force, that will help define its function, is the addition of four community representatives, some of whom are survivors of people killed in train crossing accidents.”

The first meeting of the new Railroad Crossing Task Force was held Aug. 25 at TDOT’s headquarters building in downtown Nashville.

The Grade Crossing Task Force was originally created by TDOT in response to House Joint Resolution 194, passed by the General Assembly in 1997. The idea was to include various organizations that have a role in grade crossing safety.

The group originally included railroad officials, local government representatives from cities and counties, and transportation and safety officials from state and federal agencies.

Some of the achievements of the original Task Force included developing recommendations for improving railroad crossing safety education for public schools, and drivers.

The Task Force developed legislation to require TDOT to conduct design and safety reviews before any party can develop a new grade crossing or significantly change an existing one. And, the Task Force developed a five-million-dollar program to improve signage at passive railroad crossings in Tennessee.

“More than 90 people have died as a result of incidents at railroad crossings in our state over the past ten years,” Keelor added. “The Task Force will work diligently to develop programs that will hopefully reduce the number of railroad crossing tragedies.”

The Task Force urges all motorists and pedestrians to use extreme caution when approaching a railroad crossing. Radios, cell phones and other distracting devices should be turned down or off to enable drivers to hear approaching trains and to pay full attention to the activity at the crossing. And, drivers should never drive around crossing gates that have lowered.

“Forty-percent of railroad fatalities occur at crossings with fully functioning gates, lights and warning signals,” Keelor said. “Having the right equipment in place isn’t the only answer. Reducing driver distractions and increasing awareness can make a significant difference.”

New community members of the Railroad Grade Crossing Task Force include:

  • Dr. William Freeman, Tullahoma, Tenn.
  • Mary Ellen Feaster, Sewanee, Tenn.
  • Dr. Ken Heathington, Knoxville, Tenn.
  • Mike Papula, Estill Springs, Tenn.

Other organizations with representation on the Task Force include:

  • Tennessee County Services Association
  • Tennessee County Highway Officials Association
  • Tennessee Municipal League
  • Tennessee Department of Transportation
  • Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
  • Tennessee Department of Safety
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • Federal Railroad Administration
  • CSX Transportation
  • Nofolk Southern Corporation
  • CN-Illinois Central Railroad
  • Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation
  • Tennessee Shortline Alliance