Held every other year, about 120 highway-rail grade crossing safety professionals attended the 2015 National Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Training Conference in Arlington, Texas, Nov. 1-4. Organized by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), the conference is attended by state agencies, railroad employees and vendors concerned with improving safety at railroad crossings.
About 250 fatalities occur at highway-rail grade crossings each year, a dramatic improvement from a couple of decades ago when about 600 deaths occurred each year.
“There are still many improvements that can be made, and that’s why this conference is so important,” Allan Rutter, head of TTI’s Freight and Investment Analysis Division says. “We share best practices, safety education programs and learn about protection devices, safety treatments and engineering solutions.”
The conference opened with a session reviewing the October 25, 1995 Fox River Grove, Illinois school bus-train collision that killed 7 students and injured 21 others. “The twenty year anniversary of that crash is a sobering reminder for attendees of the importance of what they do,” Rutter says.
The recipient of this year’s Hoy Richards Career Achievement Award was Lyn Hartley, retired director of Public Projects and System Design for BNSF Railway. Hartley was honored for his dedication to improve the safety of rail grade crossings, particularly his success in working with local communities to close crossings.