Seymour police conduct Railroad Crossing Blitz


Rich Brewster has been stopped at the railroad crossing by a stalled train on Tipton Street before.

It’s typical of a truck driver running a route through Seymour to get stopped by one of the city’s many trains that pass through.

Tuesday was different, as the Princeton man was quickly greeted by Seymour Police Officer Brian Proffet with train safety materials in hand as part of the department’s Railroad Crossing Blitz to educate motorists on the increase in trains and speeds the department expects.

Seymour Police Capt. Carl Lamb, who helped organize the effort, said motorists need to be aware of the changes coming in frequency and speed.

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“We realize in the next year there be will be an increase in train speed from 25 miles per hour to 49 miles per hour,” he said. “With a train going through at twice the speed, you might look and think that you can beat it.”

But oftentimes, motorists can’t judge a train’s speed accurately, especially after a speed increase, and those situations can be deadly, Lamb said.

According to the safety pamphlet handed out to motorists, it takes a train traveling at 55 mph a mile or more to stop.

Lamb said he is aware of two fatal incidents in Henryville and Edinburgh that involved motorists’ vehicles being hit while crossing a railroad.

“That led to our Railroad Crossing Blitz,” he said.

Motorists also will face more trains per day, Lamb said. Officials from Louisville & Indiana Railroad expect the trains running daily through Seymour to increase from the current three to five to 15 to 18 by 2018.

On Tuesday, four officers, two employees from the railroad company and a representative from Operation Lifesaver handed out the material to 100 motorists that defined railroad crossing signs and gave tips for safety.

Lamb said the department has planned more blitzes in the spring and summer to bring awareness.

“We just want to keep playing that feed in the public’s ear so they know to take their time,” he said. “It’s definitely a team effort.”

Motorists seemed engaged during the train’s stop and appreciated the group’s effort, Lamb said.

“Some of them knew about the increase in train traffic, and they thanked us for our time in the cold today,” he said.

Jennifer Wright of Seymour said she thought handing out the material was a good idea.

“I think it’s effective,” she said. “I don’t like the increase in the number of trains because it could be harder to get places, and it’s frustrating.”

Brewster said he doesn’t mind the increases because it’s out of everyone’s control and also thought it was a good idea to bring awareness to the issue.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I will take my time.”

Dean Salsbery of Seymour said the promotional materials will help people understand safety at rail crossings. He said he was not as concerned about the speeds and frequencies but about how motorists from the east side of the railroad tracks will be able to cross if they have an emergency.

“Blocking traffic to the hospital is a concern,” he said.

The city is planning an overpass project as part of the south extension of Burkart Boulevard. The first phase of the project will take the road from U.S. 50 on the east side of the city, south through farm fields to South O’Brien street near Silgan Plastics.

An overpass is planned to cross the rail line southeast of Silgan and just north of East County Road 340N, but construction isn’t planned until 2020, two years after the planned increases.

Phase I of the Burkart extension is estimated to cost between $12 and $15 million.

Salsbery said while speed increases may be a safety concern, it will help ease the burden of waiting so long on the trains.

“That actually may be good,” he said. “Get them through here faster.”

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Tips for staying safe at railroad crossings

Look both ways: Always expect a train. Trains can run on any track at any time in either direction. After a train passes, look both ways before proceeding.

Don’t get stuck on the track: Before you cross, be sure there is room on the other side to completely clear the tracks. Trains overhang the tracks by at least three feet on each side. For safety, leave at least 15 feet between the rear of your vehicle and the nearest rail. Do not shift gears while crossing.

Get out and get away: If your vehicle stalls at a crossing, get everyone out and far away immediately, even if you do not see a train. Call local law enforcement immediately.

If you see a train coming, wait: Don’t be tempted to try to beat the train. An approaching train may be closer and traveling faster than it appears.

Trains cannot stop quickly: The average train traveling 55 mph takes a mile or more to stop. That’s 18 football fields. If the locomotive engineer can see you, it’s too late to stop the train.

Watch for vehicles that must stop at rail road crossings: Most states require school buses, commercial buses and trucks carrying hazardous materials to stop at every highway-rail grade crossing. State laws vary.

If you see a problem at a crossing: Report any problem to the railroad immediately. Call the emergency notification number posted on or near the crossing or notify local law enforcement.


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