Saturday, April 21, 2007

Implications of the Excelsior Springs Tragedy

The petition to put the project on hold was a smashing success, but it had me running around like crazy for a week. Now, I’d like to catch up on the blog. For starters, two editorial-type comments -- one that I wrote before the petition, and one after.

I knew when I heard about the fatal accident in Excelsior Springs a couple of weeks ago that Chuck Eddy would try to exploit that tragedy to push through his pet project -- not because there is anything more than a superficial similarity between the railroad crossing there and the one on Red Bridge Road, but because the man is totally without any intellectual honesty or integrity and will say anything to advance his cause.

Ironically, that incident points out the danger of a straight road: the driver’s attention strays, and his speed increases. Where the Union Pacific line crosses Red Bridge Road, the roadway curvature forces cars to slow down and focuses their attention. But the biggest difference between the two crossings is that Red Bridge has a crossing gate. This combination has resulted in a far better safety record than the other U.P. crossings in this area.

Well, here is an editorial I wrote about crossing safety, and submitted to some local papers:

The recent loss of life at a railroad crossing in Excelsior Springs shows how out of whack our government’s priorities and methods are for promoting public safety. Even in the aftermath of this tragedy, the Missouri Department of Transportation is sticking to their standards that tell them it is a safe crossing and does not meet the criteria for the installation of guard arms. Instead of taking this relatively inexpensive measure to greatly improve the safety of railroad crossings, transportation agencies are more interested in the big-money projects that usually have a negative impact on safety. Likewise with the Red Bridge project, we have one of the safest railroad crossings in the region, yet nearby crossings that could benefit from safety upgrades go wanting because spending priorities have been set by commercial interests, not by the community. The galling irony is that proponents of the bridge claim that it will improve safety. They have no data to back up their claim, only theories that have not been vindicated by many decades of real-world experience.

I am not aware that any paper published it yet. Well, that’s what we have the internets for!

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