A 28-year-old Columbia man was in good condition at University Hospital on Tuesday afternoon after the pickup he was driving collided with a train early Tuesday morning.
Jason R. Johns was driving his pickup north on U.S. 63 when it hit the side of a Columbia Terminal, or COLT, train at 1:25 a.m. just north of Paris Road, said Columbia police Capt. Zim Schwartze. Johns was taken by ambulance to University Hospital with moderate injuries to his face, chest and back.
Schwartze said Johns was wearing a seat belt. His truck sustained heavy front-end damage.
Schwartze would not say how fast Johns was traveling. The speed limit in that location is 70 mph, and the crossing is marked with signs, lights that extend over the traffic lane to provide better visibility for motorists and bells, COLT Supervising Engineer Christian Johanningmeier said. Although there are no gates at that crossing, Rodney Massman, the railroad administrator for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said railroad crossings on high-speed roads such as U.S. 63 usually do not have gates because they tend to break often. The train was traveling at 13 mph, about half the speed limit for trains in that area.
Shane C. Riley, 37, who was operating the train, was not injured in the accident. Johanningmeier said Riley would return to work Tuesday evening. Johanningmeier said the steps at the leading edge of the second locomotive sustained minor damage.
Several passing motorists alerted police to the accident. The northbound lanes of U.S. 63 were blocked for about 40 minutes following the collision, Schwartze said. No summonses had been issued in connection with the accident as of Tuesday afternoon, but Schwartze said it was still under investigation.
Although Schwartze said there are many accidents at U.S. 63 just north of Paris Road, very few involve trains. She said accidents between trains and vehicles are rare in Columbia.
“We have the proper signage, and people are aware of where railroads are,” she said.
The last accident involving a vehicle and a COLT train occurred Feb. 7 at Peabody Road, when a COLT train hit a pickup, Johanningmeier said. The truck’s driver was not injured. Johanningmeier said inattentive drivers cause most accidents involving vehicles and trains.
The last accident between a vehicle and train at U.S. 63 just north of Paris Road was Dec. 30, 2003, when a motorist’s vehicle struck the side of a COLT train. Schwartze said the motorist admitted he was not paying attention and was cited for failing to obey a traffic signal indicating the approach of a train. He and two of his passengers were treated for minor injuries.
Johanningmeier said COLT would be running at night through the second week of December to allow for track maintenance between Centralia and Hallsville. He said that the recent hurricanes on the Gulf Coast have caused supply shortages for some businesses and that COLT is working to make sure those businesses receive shipments of supplies in as little time as possible.
Johanningmeier urged Columbians to be alert to the increase in nighttime railway traffic.
“Railroad crossing accidents tend to happen at places motorists go across frequently,” he said. “They tend to happen within about 25 miles of a person’s home.”