When federal transportation officials call a railroad crossing “inherently dangerous,” a town or city should take note.
Elmwood Park, Ill., may finally be able to address a troubled railroad crossing on Grand Avenue thanks to a $24 million contribution from the Illinois Commerce Commission. The plan is to build an underpass that is expected to cost $100 million, with more money coming in from other sources.
The crossing was labeled “inherently dangerous” by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) back in 2005 following a Metra commuter train accident that involved six vehicles. The tracks cross Grand Avenue at a 10-degree angle, which computes to a rail crossing that is 366 ft wide. Vehicles must cross 179 ft of rail to get to the other side of the crossing. About a half-mile away, the same three tracks laid at a 70-degree angle that cover four lanes of traffic at Harlem Avenue has motorists crossing just 35 ft of rail.
According to Elmwood Park Village Manager Paul Vope, cars often get trapped between the gates at Grand Avenue.
The NTSB said an underpass was needed following the 2005 accident a day before Thanksgiving. Between 1956 and 2005, the Grand Avenue crossing was the scene of 45 crashes that killed seven and injured 27. The Federal Railroad Administration 2020 Accident Prediction Report marked the Grand Avenue crossing the sixth dangerous out of just under 8,000 crossings in the state of Illinois.
Elmwood Park tried to make the crossing safer following the 2005 incident. Metra train speed was reduced to 30 mph through the zone.