The National Transportation Safety Board announced it has determined that the steepness of the road grade and the angle of the intersection at a passive grade crossing contributed to a collision between a dump truck and an approaching Amtrak train in Mendon, Mo., last year.
The June 27, 2022, collision occurred when a dump truck crossed over rail tracks without stopping at a stop sign and crossbucks located at the grade crossing. The truck was struck by Amtrak train 4, killing the truck driver, three train passengers, and injuring 146 passengers and crew. The collision derailed both locomotives and all eight railcars.
The NTSB noted the steepness of the road grade in this instance was 13 times the maximum slope recommended by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), making it difficult for a truck to accelerate through the crossing if it came to a complete stop as required by Missouri law. Additionally, the angle of the intersection was 30 degrees sharper than the lower limit of the range recommended by AASHTO.
“The safest rail grade crossing is no rail grade crossing. But at the very least, every road-rail intersection should have an adequate design to ensure proper visibility so drivers can see oncoming trains,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy. “Communities across the country deserve safer crossings so these types of accidents don’t happen again.”
NTSB investigators noted that the train’s horn was compliant with federal regulations and sounded at the regulation-specified distance from the crossing. The investigation found that the driver was not using a cell phone; toxicological testing did not indicate that the driver was impaired; the train was traveling at an authorized speed; and there were no weather-related risk factors for reduced visibility or audibility.
Crossing Closed Since the Incident
Since the collision occurred, the NTSB noted the involved crossing has been closed.
Additionally, the City of Chillicothe, in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Transportation, and Chariton County, has developed a plan to close several other passive crossings and redesign local roads to direct traffic through active crossings.
The Missouri Department of Transportation will use a portion of the funds out of their latest budget signed by Governor Mike Parson to address passive grade crossings.
“As the member-on-scene, I was pleased to bring federal, state, county, local, and community leaders together to take a serious look at this crossing,” said Homendy. “I commend the Missouri General Assembly, Governor Parson, the Missouri Department of Transportation, Chariton County, local municipalities, and countless others for taking swift action to address grade crossing safety. As a result of these efforts, lives will be saved.”