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Concerns grow over lack of safety arms on railroad crossings in Johnson County

Posted at 5:43 AM, Sep 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-24 08:50:54-04

GREENWOOD – If you've been nearby when a train passes through one of the dozens of tracks in Johnson County you might have noticed the lack of safety features. When a train passes through, most of those crossings only use flashing lights and bells to signal they're coming - but those crossings all lack one major thing: The crossing arms. 

Several viewers have reached out to Call 6 Investigates over the past few months about close calls with trains in Johnson County, and we've been looking into the issue to find out why most of the county's crossings don't have protective arms. 

The City of Greenwood says this past year has been particularly bad when it comes to close calls between trains and vehicles. After Louisville and Indiana upgraded their railroad to allow for high-speed and more frequent trains, the city says those close calls increased significantly.

Then on April 30, three separate crashes happened with three separate trains along the same rail line.

MORE | County Line Road closed near Madison Avenue after car vs. train crash

"It totally destroyed my car," Jimmy Link said. "The thing is, if there were crossbars there, I couldn't have rolled through the stop sign on my own."

Link was driving one of the cars that crashed into a train on April 30. 

"It's one of those freak accidents that I got extremely lucky in," Link said.

The cities of Greenwood, Whiteland and Franklin, along with Johnson County, have been trying to work with the railroad to install crossing arms at the major crossings in the county, but Greenwood Mayor Mark Meyer says the railroad isn’t willing to fund any upgrades. 

And federal law says the railroads aren't required to, either. 

“The responsible government decides the type of protection required at rail crossings, approves the designs of warning protection and funds the projects,” Louisville and Indiana Railroad said in a statement to Call 6.

“Safety is the top priority at our railroad,” the railroad statement goes on to say. “This year alone, we will spend over $75,000 on safety outreach programs in this region, working with law enforcement and providing education on rail safety at schools and in active adult centers through the Operation Lifesaver program.”

There was a grant approved for use in 2020 to upgrade the crossings, but Meyer says that’s too far away when it comes to safety.

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