City Council to vote on additional signage for dangerous crossing

Friday, February 29, 2008 | 7:13 p.m. CST; updated 11:40 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

COLUMBIA — State and city officials think they’ve found a short-term fix to the long-term problem of traffic accidents and safety at the city’s most notorious railroad crossing.

The City Council will vote Monday on a resolution that would allow City Manager Bill Watkins to ask the Missouri Department of Transportation to install additional warning signs as far as 10 miles away from the U.S. 63 COLT railroad crossing. The city would also ask that trucks and vehicles carrying hazardous waste be exempted from stopping at the intersection, said Water and Light department spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz.

State law requires commercial vehicles, which include school buses and tractor trailers, to stop at railroad crossings. But several accidents that have occurred at the crossing have been caused by fast-moving vehicles failing to slow down in time for other vehicles stopped at the crossing.

The most recent such crash at the crossing occurred Friday afternoon when a tractor-trailer, which had stopped at the crossing, was rear-ended by a car. Two people were hospitalized with injuries.

From 2002 to 2006, according to a Missouri Department of Transportation report, there were 18 traffic accidents at the crossing. From 1997 to 2001, there were only eight.

Kacprowicz said an increase in the number of cars passing over the crossing has contributed to the amount of accidents.

On Oct. 11, Ralph Haller, 64, of Moberly died after rear-ending a gasoline tanker-truck stopped at the crossing.

“Most of the traffic accidents have been vehicular accidents not involving the train,” Kacprowicz said. “Most of it has been when a truck has had to stop.”

Since 2001, there have been three accidents involving a train and a vehicle, according to previous reports.

In October, a Kansas City engineering firm estimated that it would cost the city about $4.6 million to build an overpass at the crossing.

Water and Light department director John Glascock said the city is looking at several different funding options to create the bridge.

“We’re trying to work through MoDot,” Glascock said. “Maybe partner 50-50 with them. We’re (also) looking at other federal money if it’s available.”

Columbia police Chief Randy Boehm said he supports any action the city can take to improve the safety of the crossing.

“That’s a MoDot raod, so ultimately the decision is theirs,” Boehm said, adding that the resolution’s proposed improvements “would be a good thing.”

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