Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's Time For New Jersey Transit To Eliminate Midland Avenue Grade Crossing

For the second time in two weeks, a crash at Midland Avenue on the Bergen Line snarled commuter traffic during rush hour.

This time, I got an up close and personal view, since it was my train that struck a vehicle that was unlawfully in the crossing when the signal gates came down.

The collision occurred shortly before 6PM, and we sat on the train for a little more than an hour before a rescue train pulled alongside and took on the nearly 800 passengers on board our train.

This is a collision that didn't have to happen.

I've written about this particular location numerous times before.

The first time, I wrote about my experience being on the rescue train that picked up passengers from the train that struck a vehicle in 2009. Since then, there have been numerous incidents at Midland Avenue, and there doesn't appear to be any sign that NJ Transit or Elmwood Park are going to adjust the crossing to make it safer.

It happened again in 2010.

It happened in February 2012 as well.

This is the most dangerous crossing for NJ Transit and is repeatedly the scene of collisions. You would think that NJ Transit and transit officials from Elmwood Park would look to reduce the chances of collisions there.

You'd be wrong.

They've done little to resolve the problem.

That has to change - NJ Transit has been lucky that no one has died in any of these crossing incidents. The next time we might not be so lucky - a vehicle could result in a derailment and significant casualties could be the result.

So, what can NJ Transit and the town do about this?

View Larger Map

That's a map of the vicinity and Market Street is the only safe crossing in the vicinity.

There's really just one way to improve safety here. That would be to eliminate it altogether. NJ Transit should work with the town to direct traffic along Midland Avenue to Erie Avenue and then cross the tracks at a perpendicular crossing at Market Street. That's a whole lot safer than the current situation where traffic can back up and cars are stuck in no-man's land behind a closed gate.

But it appears that no one is willing to consider that particular move.

Lesser alternatives might involve restricting traffic to one-way but this crossing also involves elevation changes to go along with the odd-angled crossing. Adding additional striping and lighting and gates has done nothing to improve the safety here.

That's why the only remaining solution needs to be instituted before someone gets killed here.

Turns out that the driver of the car was issued multiple summonses for careless driving and interference with transportation.
It was not clear why the motorist, identified as Rakesh Sharma, stopped his 2008 Mercedes on the tracks at the Midland Avenue grade crossing, according to NJ Transit spokesman William Smith. The sedan was stopped when the gates and signals went off, he added.

Sharma was alone in the car when the train crashed into its driver’s side, but not hurt in the 5:45 p.m. collision, the spokesman said. None of the 800 people aboard the Bergen County Line train were injured.

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