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| Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

A CSX grade crossing near the intersection of Denbigh Boulevard and Fort Eustis Boulder in York County, Virginia (VA), is no longer a grade crossing. This is because "grade crossing" defines a section of railroad tracks that runs across a road or highway at the same level as the asphalt. This particular crossing has sunk, and, as the Daily Press reported on Jan. 10, 2010, there is no firm timeline for fixing the problem.

Grade crossings are inherently dangerous, as they often put cars, trucks and pedestrians directly in the path of oncoming passenger and freight trains. The U.S. Federal Highway Administration noted that in 2007, "incidents at public highway-rail crossings in the United States resulted in 299 deaths and 817 injuries." Installing and properly using red lights, alarms and crossing gates can help prevent crossing collisions, but even CSX acknowledges on its Web site that the safest way for trains to cross roads and highways is via underpasses or overpasses.

The FHWA estimates that nearly 140,000 grade crossings exist in the United States, however, and every one of those will never be replaced. This makes it essential for rail operators to keep their crossings in full repair and as safe as possible.

Sunken crossings create multiple hazards for drivers. First, cars and trucks must slow considerably before moving across sunken train tracks to avoid damaging their vehicles. This can lead to rear-end collisions and to following drivers unsafely changing lanes to avoid hitting vehicles in front them.

More dangerously, sunken tracks can trap cars and trucks, making it impossible for drivers to get out of the way of onrushing trains.

According to the Daily Press, CSX has cited November’s nor’easter, December’s holidays, and January’s cold temperatures as reasons to put off raising the crossing at Denbigh and Fort Eustis boulevards. The company needs to find a way to make the needed repairs.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, whose attorneys work out of offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.


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