2 track crossings called hazards Improvements planned by state within 4 years


Two of Hampstead's railroad crossings are among the most dangerous in the state, Maryland highway officials confirmed last week.

The crossings, which intersect Route 30 north and south of town, head the list of those state officials expect to improve within the next four years, said Robert J. Herstein, chief of the State Highway Administration's study section.

Plans for the improvements, paid for in part by a U.S. Department of Transportation grant, include flashing lights over the roadway, Mr. Herstein said.

Mr. Herstein said the project was a high priority and that he expects the money to be part of his budget for fiscal 1998, which begins July 1, 1997.

"We rate the crossings in order of accident predictions, go down the list until we run out of money and start up the next year where we left off," Mr. Herstein said.

The transportation grant, which brings $1.5 million to Maryland PTC each year to improve unsafe railroad crossings, pays for 80 percent of the improvements, and state money covers the rest, Mr. Herstein said.

"We may also install gates," he said of the two crossings on Route 30. "But we have to decide whether that would add or detract from the effectiveness of the signal."

Each crossing now has flashing lights by the side of the road to warn the approximately 19,000 drivers daily of approaching trains.

Four to six trains each day use the Hampstead tracks, which are owned by CSX Transportation Inc.

Mr. Herstein said he determines how dangerous crossings are by using a system devised by the Federal Railway Administration.

The system uses statistics such as how many collisions have occurred at the crossing in the past five years, how many trains use the track each day and how many cars per day use the road, he said.

According to the federal ratings, if the Carroll crossings remain unimproved, 18 car-train collisions would be expected in the next 100 years at the northern railroad crossing, near Fairmount Road, and 19 collisions at the southern crossing, near the Black & Decker Corp. plant.

State Highway Administration statistics show two collisions at each of the crossings from 1988 through 1992.

There has been at least one since then, when a woman's car was hit from behind and pushed into the path of a train at the southern crossing in April 1993.

Hampstead's 13 railroad crossings, from Eagle Ridge Court on the north end of town to Eton Avenue to the south, is "a high ratio of crossings" for a town with a population of about 3,800, Mr. Herstein said.

By comparison, Baltimore has 250 railroad crossings and a population of about 700,000.

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