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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation H-82-015
Details
Synopsis: ON MARCH 14, 1982, AT A RAILROAD/HIGHWAY GRADE CROSSING ON HERRICKS ROAD IN NASSAU COUNTY, NEW YORK, A 19-YEAR-OLD MALE DROVE HIS SOUTHBOUND VAN, OCCUPIED BY NINE OTHER TEENAGERS, AROUND A PROPERLY FUNCTIONING LOWERED AUTOMATIC GATE WITH FLASHING LIGHTS, ONTO THE MAIN LINE TRACKS OF THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD, AND INTO THE PATH OF AN ONCOMING TRAIN. THE DRIVER AND EIGHT PASSENGERS WERE KILLED AND ONE PASSENGER WAS INJURED CRITICALLY.
Recommendation: THE SAFETY BOARD BELIEVES THAT A PROPERLY DESIGNED TRAFFIC DIVISIONAL ISLAND COULD PROVIDE FOR A SAFER CROSSING AT THIS LOCATION. THEREFORE, THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT NASSAU COUNTY, NEW YORK: EVALUATE THE FEASIBILITY OF TRAFFIC DIVISIONAL ISLANDS BEING USED TO DETER VEHICLES FROM GOING AROUND LOWERED GATES ON THE HERRICKS ROAD APPROACHES TO THE GRADE CROSSING OF THE MAIN LINE OF THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD AND IF THE EVALUATION IS FAVORABLE, CONSTRUCT AN APPROPRIATELY DESIGNED INSTALLATION AT AN EARLY DATE. (URGENT)
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action
Mode: Highway
Location: Mineola, NY, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA82AH004
Accident Reports: ​Long Island Railroad, Commuter Train / Ford Van Collision
Report #: RHR-82-02
Accident Date: 3/14/1982
Issue Date: 6/7/1982
Date Closed: 9/14/1994
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: State of New York, County of Nassau (Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: State of New York, County of Nassau
Date: 9/14/1994
Response: THROUGH OUR TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS WITH MR. JIM LOMBONELLI OF THE NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, THE SAFETY BOARD UNDERSTANDS THAT NASSAU COUNTY HAS BEGUN A GRADE SEPARATION PROJECT AT HERRICKS ROAD, THUS ELIMINATING THE CROSSING. BASED ON THIS INFO, WE HAVE CLASSIFIED H-82-15 "CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ALTERNATE ACTION."

From: State of New York, County of Nassau
To: NTSB
Date: 8/10/1994
Response: (8/10/94 PHONE CONVERSATIONS) I SPOKE WITH MR. JIM LIMBONGELLI OF THE NYDOT (516) 739-3462 ON AUGUST 10, 1994, NASSAU COUNTY HAS FINALLY BEEN APPROVED TO BEGIN THEIR GRADE SEPARATION PROJECT AT THE HERRICKS ROAD CROSSINGS. THE EXPECTED COMPLETION DATE IS SEPT. 1998.

From: NTSB
To: State of New York, County of Nassau
Date: 4/13/1987
Response: In its July 7, 1982, response to Safety recommendation H-82-15 Nassau County expressed its concern that the installation of a continuous island at Herricks Road, whose length would be limited by the need for access to the nearby driveways, would set a precedent for the other grade crossings in case of future liability suits. The County requested that the Board furnish them with any studies and published documentation on the use of center islands for added protection at railroad grade crossings. In its letter of October 25, 1982, the Safety Board indicated that the use of raised medians at a grade crossing approach is a positive application of partial control of access. The Board, in the same letter, also enclosed a number of excerpts from traffic engineering and design publications that further discuss the use of islands in separating conflicts, regulating traffic in the proper lane use, indicating proper direction for traffic flow, etc. When compared with other crossings in the nation, the Herricks Road grade crossing of the Long Island Railroad main line has the highest exposure (number of trains times the average vehicle count) of any railroad grade crossing carrying high speed trains. Pending further response, this recommendation was classified as "Open-Acceptable Action." The Board has not received a response to its letter of October 25, 1982. The Safety Board would appreciate being informed if this recommendation has been implemented. In view of the time that has elapsed since our letter of October 25, 1982, we look forward to receiving a prompt reply. This Safety Recommendation will remain in an "Open-Acceptable Action" status pending your reply.

From: NTSB
To: State of New York, County of Nassau
Date: 10/25/1982
Response: Our investigation of this accident revealed a high potential for auto/train conflict in Nassau County and a high rate of fatalities in auto/train collisions at gate-controlled crossings. These findings, along with the fact that the driver in this accident moved out of his proper traffic lane, obviating the purpose of the traffic control devices operating at the time, led the Board to consider the need for more stringent traffic controls at Nassau County gate-controlled rail/highway crossings. Our letter of recommendation listed three possible traffic control procedures; the use of a traffic divisional island was considered to be the most appropriate for further consideration at Herricks Road. While specific references for the use of traffic divisional islands for this application are not contained in any national standard for traffic control devices, the use of such islands for a variety of traffic control and traffic safety applications has a long history of success. The 1974 publication of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, "Highway Design and Operational Practices Related to Highway Safety," contains the following statement: …partial control of access can be used to give preference to through traffic on arterial highways and streets. Properly applied, this design feature can reduce the hazard of travel on such roads through reduction of points of conflict. Partial control of access can be obtained in a number of ways, such as intersection traffic controls, redirection of left turns to other intersections, use of raised medians, and elimination of indiscriminate direct private access to driveway controls in frontage roads…. The suggested use of raised medians at a grade crossing approach is, in the Safety Board's opinion, a positive application of partial control of access. We have enclosed a number of excerpts from traffic engineering and design publications that further discuss the use of islands in separating conflicts, regulating traffic in the proper lane use, indicating proper direction for traffic flow, etc. Examples of the use of traffic divisional islands for traffic control at railroad/highway grade crossings are to be found in Riverside, California; Gwinnette County, Georgia; and the State of Illinois. In Riverside, California, traffic divisional islands have been installed at four locations for the specific purpose of deterring vehicular traffic from going around the end of a lowered gate arm. The traffic engineer for the city of Riverside indicated to the Safety Board that traffic divisional islands have been very effective in accomplishing this goal. In Gwinnette County, Georgia, traffic divisional islands are used at several grade crossings. The county has received no complaints, has not had any accidents, and is recommending their use at other locations. The Illinois Commerce Commission recently required a traffic divisional island in the center of a highway when it was reconstructed to a higher standard for the express purpose of preventing motor vehicles from going around lowered gate arms. Also, the Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Handbook (FHWA-TS-78-214), published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, shows a median on the approaches in figures 49 and 74. Copies of these figures are enclosed. Your comments concerning street width, side street access. Driveways, and the possibility of setting the precedent for other crossings are all valid concerns and must be considered as the evaluation of the Herricks Road Crossing is carried out. With respect to the control of driveway access, a separate U.S. Department of Transportation Study entitled, Investigation of Anomalous Rail/Highway Crossings, indicated that 95 percent of the crossings with higher then predicted accident rates had three or more roadways or driveways intercepting the crossing approach within 500 feet of the actual crossing. National statistics reveal that the leading cause of accidents at railroad/highway grade crossings controlled by gates is the voluntary movement of motor vehicles around the lowered gates. The following data is from the "Rail-Highway Accident/Incident and Inventory Bulletin" for the 3 years 1978 through 1980 for grade crossings controlled by gates where the driver drove around or through a gate: Year Accident/Incident Killed Injured 1978 596 77 201 1979 596 68 241 1980 507 82 202 Highway safety would be improved if these numbers were reduced by the use of traffic divisional islands at crossings with gates. While we do not believe that the use of a traffic divisional island is applicable at all crossings or even at a majority of crossings, we believe it is practicable at the Herricks Road site. When compared with other crossings in the nation, the Herricks Road grade crossing of the Long Island Railroad main line has the highest exposure (number of trains times the average vehicle count) of any railroad grade crossing carrying high speed trains. We believe that immediate improvements are warranted. Should you wish to discuss any of the information gathered by the Safety Board on the use of traffic divisional islands, please contact Mr. Ronald A. Weber, Highway Engineer, of our staff. His telephone number is 202-382-6680. Safety Recommendation H-81-15 will be held in an "Open-Acceptable Action" status pending further response.

From: State of New York, County of Nassau
To: NTSB
Date: 7/7/1982
Response: DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS, COUNTY OF NASSAU, MINEOLA, NY, LETTER: THE COUNTY IS CONCERNED THAT THE INSTALLATION OF A CONTINUOUS ISLAND HERE, WHOSE LENGTH WOULD BE LIMITED BY THE NEED FOR ACCESS TO NEARBY DRIVEWAYS, WOULD SET A PRECEDENT FOR ALL THE OTHER GRADE CROSSINGS IN CASE OF FUTURE LIABILITY SUITS. AT MOST OF THESE GRADE CROSSINGS, THERE IS INSUFFICIENT WIDTH, OR THE EXISTENCE OF ADJACENT SIDE STREETS PARALLEL OF THE RAILROAD TRACKS, WHICH WOULD MAKE SUCH ISLANDS VERY DIFFICULT TO INSTALL WITHOUT EXTENSIVE AND COSTLY HIGHWAY REVISIONS. BEFORE WE CONSIDER YOUR RECOMMENDATION, WE WOULD REQUEST THAT YOU FURNISH US WITH ANY STUDIES AND PUBLISHED DOCUMENTATON ON THE USE OF CENTER ISLANDS FOR ADDED PROTECTION AT RAILROAD GRADE CROSSINGS.