Safety measures implemented at site of fiery train collision in Maspeth

Stop sign Truck
Inset photo via Facebook/CURES

Railroad officials hope a sign for train operators will keep things safer at a Maspeth railroad crossing.

A new stop sign has been placed on the tracks at Maspeth Avenue and Rust Street in an effort to prevent another accident such as the one that took place in July 2015, which left the driver of a tractor-trailer hospitalized after a train engine crashed into his truck.

In that accident, according to investigators, a New York and Atlantic Railway (NYA) train engine was traveling at least five miles per hour over the 15 mph speed limit when it hit the truck, which was in the process of passing the four-track crossing on Maspeth Avenue. The tractor-trailer was dragged down the tracks and burst into flames.

The high speed of the train did not allow for the crossing gate to be activated before the truck entered the crossing, it was reported.

The new signage has been placed to remind train crews to stop before entering the crossing. The engine is supposed to stop at an island circuit, which triggers the crossing gate to activate and prevent vehicles from entering the crossing. Only when the gate is down is the train supposed to proceed through the crossing.

“What happened on July 8, 2015 at the Maspeth [Avenue] crossing was that the NYA train didn’t stop as the rules mandated,” according to a statement from Civics United for Railroad and Environmental Solutions (CURES), a civic group seeking better public safety near local train lines. “It blew through the crossing, exceeding the speed limit. It hit the tractor-trailer, which was already in the crossing. The gates were not down because the NYA train had not stopped and triggered them. The truck was dragged a good distance because of the speed of the train.”

After the accident, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) launched a focused safety review of NYA’s safety culture and management practices. Additional review is ongoing.

According to CURES, a stop sign has also been placed at the 88th Street at-grade crossing of the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) Lower Montauk line in Glendale, which has been a problem for the community for some time.

“There have been numerous complaints about the 88th Street crossing. It’s near a school, so it’s a heavily traveled pedestrian pathway for children, as well as a heavily traveled street,” CURES said. “The problem at this crossing is that the engine was coming into the crossing, very close to cars coming across the tracks, while the gates were still up. People saw the engine and the lights when they were on the tracks and were scared.”

“So these signs were installed, reminding NYA crews to follow the rules,” CURES added. “Let’s hope they work and no one gets hurt again because of a speeding train, crew not following the rules, or lack of appropriate signaling.”