TV-6 Investigates: Increased train speed does not require upgraded rail crossings

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HAMPTON, Ill. (KWQC) - A railroad line that runs through several of our communities along the Illinois side of the river has doubled the speed limit on its trains. That's raised safety concerns among several villages along the tracks.

The railroad line extends from East Moline and runs up just past Cordova along the Illinois shoreline. There are 81 railroad crossings along the line. None of them have gates, and only four have flashing lights.

Roughly once a day a Canadian Pacific train chugs along the Mississippi. It passes through towns and parks, all with very few warning signs in place.

Hampton Trustee Matt King said, "Clearly the train horns are loud, you hear them outside, and if you're inside, even in the basement, you can still hear it, but there's no visual warning."

King said the village received a notice from the railroad about the speed increase in June. it's increasing from 10 to 25 miles per hour. It immediately set off alarm bells for him.

King said, "I was concerned, especially because it's a residential neighborhood."

Hampton's elementary school is only a block and a half away from the tracks. The bike path also cuts across the line. Nearly all the rail crossings along the tracks look the same; no lights, no gates, just yield or stop signs, and crossbucks.

Port Bryon Trustee Wes Wells said, "A lot of people come and go across the tracks to get to the river, perhaps some more modern signs that say higher speed trains."

Wells believes people are too accustomed to the old ten miles per hour speed limit.

"A lot of people might look at the train and go I've made this a bunch of times before," said Wells.

A Canadian Pacific spokesperson said they cut back brush along the tracks to improve sight lines at the crossings. But the railroad said whoever owns the road that crosses its track is responsible for upgrading the warning signs.

Wells said he doesn't want much, "Just the cost of a few signs is worth one person getting hurt and avoiding that."

The Illinois Commerce Commission said upgrading a crossing to have flashing lights and gates costs about $300,000. It has money to help communities defray the cost but they have to decide whether it's worth making the upgrades.

Federal records show there have been seven collisions at rail crossings along the line since 1977. One motorist was killed. One crash was at a crossing with flashing lights.

An Illinois Commerce Commission spokesperson said 87 percent of crashes on railroad crossings occur at crossings with gates and lights. The spokesperson said people need to be patient and not try to beat an oncoming train.