Vinton Residents Speak Out on Deadly Railroad Crossing

January 23, 2007

Reported by: Britney Glaser

One Vinton railroad crossing has been a source of controversy now for more than a decade.  The Eddy Street crossing in Vinton is the only one of the four Vinton railroad crossings that does not have active warning devices. But, city officials are continuing the fight to have that changed.

It's been five years since the Vinton Town Council allocated $200,000 to pay for cross arms at the Eddy Street crossing, but the tracks remain unprotected.  Joe Arbona with Union Pacific says the railroad company is committed to safety.  If an active railroad crossing is to be installed, it would be the responsibility of the Department of Transportation and Development to require the railroad company to upgrade the crossing.  Arbona says this has not occurred.

The crossing has a very faded white "X" painted on each side of the road, stop signs and track crossing signs, but these warnings have not been enough for drivers.  There have been four fatalities in the past two years.

Betsey Tromonte with Operation Lifesaver works to raise awareness about the danger surrounding railroad crossings.  Louisiana ranks sixth in the nation for the number of highway-rail crossing collisions.  Operation Lifesaver's mission is to decrease these numbers.  Tromonte says, "We find that a lot of times when drivers approach the railroad crossing, they've either approached it so many times throughout their life or during the day, that a lot of times they need to be reminded that the railroad crossing is there."

Elizabeth St. Julien lives in Vinton and drives over the Eddy Street crossing frequently.  She says although she is very cautious, she has had a close call with a train before.  "It's a time that I have crossed there, and stopped and looked both ways and didn't see anything...but sure enough after I crossed the track, the train passed."

Vinton Mayor Kenny Stinson tells 7News that within the next two weeks, the city will hear from DOTD and Union Pacific Railroad Company regarding a potential solution to this deadly crossing.

"I just hope before this gets remedied, that no more people lose their lives there," says St. Julien.

Back in 1997 the Eddy Street crossing was temporarily barricaded by Southern Pacific Railroad (which was later bought by Union Pacific) in an effort to reduce the number of accidents on the tracks.  This only lasted for about one year, however, because many residents felt an inconvenience to use other roads to access their neighborhood.