GREENWOOD, Ind.-- Greenwood officials are calling for more caution and safety upgrades after three separate crashes involving cars and trains Monday.
“I’ve been here over 23 years and I don’t think it’s ever happened,” said Greenwood Assistant Police Chief Matt Fillenwarth. It’s pretty incredible that anybody lived, in my opinion.”
The first crash happened when a car collided with a passing train at a crossing on Pushville Road, about a half mile south of Worthsville Road. The collision caused heavy damage to the car, but only minor injuries to the driver. A few hours later, two different cars collided with two different trains at a crossing on County Line Road, just east of Madison Avenue. One crash at that location left an 84-year-old woman badly injured with several broken bones and internal injuries.
In each crash, Greenwood Police say the driver appears to have rolled into the path of each passing train. Fillenwarth said drivers need to be more cautious when crossing railroad tracks, especially now that longer trains are passing through the area at roughly twice the speed they were a few years ago. The first crash involved a 2 1/2-mile long train carrying new cars to Indianapolis.
“And it’s going almost 50 miles an hour,” Fillenwarth said. “It takes that train over a mile to stop, even if they throw it in the emergency stop procedures.”
Fillenwarth also said additional safety equipment at the crossings, like crossing arms, probably could have prevented the crashes.
Each of Monday’s accidents happened along the Louisville & Indiana Railroad, which was recently upgraded to allow for longer, faster rail traffic. The railroad crossing on County Line Road is equipped with flashing lights and warning bells that signal an incoming train, but is not equipped with crossing arms that lower to block cars and trucks. The crossing on Pushville road has “railroad crossing” signs in place, but no flashing lights or warning bells.
John Dowd has lived next to the County Line Road crossing since 1969, but he has never seen two car-train accidents there in the same day.
“I looked out my window and all these red lights, and I thought my God, they just got cleaned up from the other accident, now they got this one,” Dowd said.
Down said he’s not bothered by the faster, more frequent train traffic by his home. However, he is concerned by the danger of drivers trying to scoot across the tracks to beat oncoming trains.
“They do it daily,” he said. “The crossing gates would help a lot, but I don’t know that we’ll ever get them.”
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said the accidents are a perfect example of why railroad companies should be required to pay for additional safety measures at crossings when they upgrade their tracks. Myers has been pushing for years to change federal law to require railroad companies to fund features like crossing arms, which can cost roughly $225,000.
“You know, this infuriates me,” Myers said. “And I am going to continue my push to change the law federally and I’m getting mayors all across the United States to help me with this, because this is a national problem, it’s not just Indiana.”
Myers said about $5.7 million in federal grant money is coming to pay for safety upgrades at several railroad crossings across Johnson County, but that money won’t arrive until 2022.