MTA Long Island Rail Road announced the completion of its visible railroad crossing safety initiative, as LIRR engineers installed safety enhancements all 296 railroad crossings system-wide — five months ahead of schedule.
In May, as part of his LIRR Forward initiative, LIRR President Phillip Eng announced an accelerated plan to install flexible, four-feet high reflective delineators as well as extended roadway markings and additional reflective devices to better alert drivers, who may become confused by GPS directions while driving in darkness or inclement weather, that they should not make a turn onto the tracks. At the time, Eng announced that this effort was scheduled to be complete at all 296 grade crossings throughout the LIRR system by the end of this year.
Over the past three months, LIRR engineering crews worked to implement this important safety initiative well ahead of schedule, and successfully installed the safety enhancements at the last crossing at Hortons Lane in Southold toward the end of July.
To further the railroad’s crossing safety efforts, the LIRR in June announced its groundbreaking partnership with the GPS navigation app Waze, with a first-ever feature of its kind to debut on the app that alerts motorists using it that they are approaching a LIRR railroad crossing. This initiative was launched using Waze's Connected Citizens Program — a free, two-way data share of publicly available traffic information. Metro-North has also since announced its own similar partnership with Waze.
These efforts came after an aggressive review of railroad crossing incidents and potential safety enhancements by the MTA. The delineator project and Waze program were developed as the railroad began to see vehicles on tracks as a growing problem as distracted or confused motorists, some using GPS devices, inadvertently turn onto tracks instead of parallel roadways.
To date, incident data provides evidence that the initiative is having a positive impact. In 2017, the LIRR recorded 29 reports of cars on tracks, in addition to 17 grade crossing accidents involving the LIRR and motor vehicles. Through May 22 of this year, there were two grade crossing accidents and 21 reports of cars on tracks.
Since this accelerated effort began in May, the LIRR has recorded only three incidents of vehicles-on-tracks. In the first two, there were no delineators installed at those locations. In the third incident, a motorist at Tuckahoe Road Crossing in Southampton experienced a medical emergency, which inadvertently caused the car to enter the railroad's right-of-way.