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request of the Commission. Undoubtedly these expedients have helped to reduce the number of accidents. It is noticeable that a large number of accidents have resulted from a collision of a vehicle on the highway with the sides of the trains, in many cases these collisions taking place with cars rather than with the locomotive. It should also be noted that it is not the so-called blind crossing (one in which the view obtainable of approaching trains is obscured), at which accidents most frequently occur. It has been chiefly the open crossing in open country where the traveler on the highway has disregarded a safe speed in approaching the crossings notwithstanding the numerous safeguards giving adequate warning that a crossing is immediately in advance. The tables which have been prepared show clearly the types of accidents which have occurred.
Complete elimination seems to be the only positive remedy, but this will cost a prodigious sum. There are 8,205 grade crossings of steam railroads within the State. No definite survey has ever been made to determine the particular character of each of these crossings. They may be divided into the following general classes: city and village streets; improved state and county highways under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Works, Bureau of Highways; improved county highways; and town highways. Most of the first class are now protected by either gates, flagmen, or
automatic warning devices. Of the second class the more prominent and densely traveled have protection of one form or another aside. from the usual warning signs. The last two named are practically unprotected. There is another division as to type, viz., the trunk line railroads, and the short line railroads. The Commission's observations of a number of years suggest that there are not less than 4,000 crossings that should be eliminated as speedily as possible. Of the remainder, it is doubtful whether complete elimination would ever be required. It is true that accidents may occur at such crossings, but the cost of their elimination would seem to be out of proportion to the traffic sustained by the highways in question.
The present experience of the Commission indicates that to eliminate the 4,000 crossings mentioned, not less than an average of $100,000 per crossing must be expended. When one considers the tremendous costs necessary to accomplish the elimination of crossings in cities such as Syracuse, Elmira, Binghamton, Cortland, etc., it is apparent that the average cost must of necessity be high. $400,000,000 would therefore be required to accomplish this work, and the share of the State under the present statutory division could be not less than $100,000,000. It would probably be more than this amount, as many of the crossings included within the 4,000 are under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Highways, in which case the State now pays one-half of the cost.
While the money cost is very great, another important factor must be considered. To eliminate 100 crossings per annum would not only tax the financial ability of the railroads and the public, but their physical resources as well. Under the statute, in all cases excepting those pertaining to highways under the control of the State Department of Public Works, the municipality in which the crossing is located pays one-quarter of the cost of an elimination. The inability of the municipalities to pay these costs has been found to deter them from urging eliminations.
At this rate not less than 40 years would be required in which to remove the present most serious menaces to human life. The problem, therefore, is essentially one of protecting human life. The most effective and practical means now known for such protection is the use of gates, but even these frequently fail to prevent accidents. It has been found imperative in many cases to construct certain barriers in such a manner as to practically wreck a vehicle in order to prevent it from attempting to cross when it is improper to do so. It has been suggested that the continental method of maintaining the gates closed except when necessary to open them in order to permit the passage of vehicles might be adopted. While this might be possible in the case of certain highways, it would be distinctly unsatisfactory on the densely traveled highways, especially where they cross railroads on which heavy traffic occurs. There are not many of such crossings, however, and this suggests that they may be the first to be eliminated, provided the necessary funds may be made available.
To protect a crossing adequately costs a substantial sum per annum. If gates are adopted there is the cost of installation, which may vary from $1,000 to $2,500. To maintain attendants at these crossings for each of the 24 hours within the day will cost from $200 to $300 per month. 767 crossings are now protected by gates. To protect the remaining 3,233, assuming that the present protected ones are included within the above named 4,000, will require an initial outlay for installation alone of approximately $5,657,750, and an annual operating charge for protection of $1,000,000. Such charges as these are now wholly borne by the railroad corporations. Being a direct part of operating expenses, they must ultimately be borne by the public in the rates paid for transportation. Whether the public would prefer to bear this charge in this manner or in some other way is an open question. As eliminations progress, the charges will decrease, assuming that the rates of wages remain substantially constant.
The Commission in its last annual report suggested the necessity of devising a new method of financing grade crossing eliminations. It said:
"It is obvious that some other means than the mere appropriation by the State of a definite sum of money is required. It may be that the proper solution of the problem lies in the State assuming the initial financial responsibility by supplying the capital necessary to perform the work. This might be accomplished by direct appropriation from the available funds or by bond issue. Should such a plan be adopted for the purpose of accomplishing such eliminations as the State determines to be necessary, the amount advanced could be liquidated through annual payments or by such other means as may be deemed desirable. If such a plan were to be evolved, the order in which the eliminations. were to be undertaken would be most important. To determine this order would require a most comprehensive study."
Before any accurate conclusions may be reached in reference to the question of either elimination or protection, a detailed survey, as suggested by us a year ago, is highly essential. Such a survey should include an analysis of every crossing within the State, which survey ought primarily to embrace plans, views, and traffic counts. This is an undertaking of considerable size, and should be undertaken by a special organization designed to do this work. The engineering force now available to the Commission is wholly inadequate in size to undertake such a task. The result of this work would establish a foundation upon which to plan future work. Quite obviously such an organization would be largely benefited if representatives of the different interests concerned, the public, the municipalities and the railroads, participated, in order that a generally acceptable plan might result.
It is estimated that an independent survey to determine the crossings which necessarily should be eliminated will require an
expenditure of $300,000. The Commission respectfully suggests that this expenditure could in great part be avoided if existing departments of the State, having a mutual interest in the elimination problem would secure through their present engineering and inspection forces the detailed information essential, such as traffic counts, surveys, photographic views, plans, etc. If the latter course is followed the only special appropriation necessary need not exceed $50,000. This amount would provide for general supervision of the work and such other expense items as could not be covered by departmental budgets. The following is a statement with respect to the funds appropriated by the Legislature for the elimination of grade crossings:
Total amount appropriated to date.
Total amount paid by State Treasurer to December 1, 1923, as State's proportion of cost..
Balance for future work and completion of that already ordered
Balance not specifically segregated or set apart...
Estimated amount necessary to complete work already ordered in addition to the amount previously segregated..
Available balance for new work.
G. C. 682
*NOTE: This amount does not include the estimated cost of eliminating the Buffalo Street grade crossing of the Erie railroad in the city of Jamestown, (Case No. 4887), which project has been indefinitely postponed.
900 - Union Road, Ebenezer.
Of the foregoing balance of $444,389.81, approximately $415,000 will be required as the State's share of the elimination of the Main Street crossing of the New York Central railroad in Niagara Falls, and the Winton Road crossing of the same railroad in Rochester. This will leave a balance of $29,000 which is necessary to take care of possible overruns in estimates for work already ordered. The item of $190,000 in the foregoing table is made up of the following:
South Water St., Newburgh.
Conable's crossing, Warsaw
Town highways, Blodgett Mills.
$4,069,606 92 2,945 86
$1,051,232 68 415,842 87
*191,000 00 $444,389 81
The work on the South Water Street crossing has been delayed on account of contentions made by the Erie Railroad Company. The Massey Street crossing will probably be completed during 1924. The Cornell Street crossing, Kingston, is delayed by the failure of the City of Kingston to acquire necessary property. The Warsaw crossing is held up awaiting the financial ability of the village to proceed. The other two are recent orders which will be progressed and probably completed in 1924.
The following table indicates the grade crossings eliminated during the past year, 464 grade crossings having been eliminated within the State up to the present time.
The following table indicates the crossings changed or altered during the past year under section 91 of the Railroad Law.
Town of Lewiston.
Town of Southampton..
Town of Guilford.
Town of North Hempstead
Nature of change
Overgrade crossing reconstructed.
Undergrade crossing reconstructed.
Overgrade crossing reconstructed. Undergrade crossing reconstructed.
Overgrade crossing reconstructed.
At the present time there are eight projects under construction or for which contracts have been let providing for the elimination of thirteen existing grade crossings and the reconstruction of one existing under-crossing. During the past year work was resumed on the elimination of three crossings within the city of Jamestown, which has been delayed for a number of years. The work was under way just prior to the war, but actual construction ceased when the war started and was not resumed because of the materially increased costs over those which prevailed when the work began. An additional appropriation to cover this work was made by the Legislature, which has enabled it to be again started. The whole work should be completed within another year.
An order was made during the year for the elimination of the Main and Wildey street crossings in the village of Tarrytown, and the actual construction work will be begun early in 1924. This will complete the elimination of all grade crossings within the electric zone of the New York Central railroad outside of New York City. During the year the elimination of a group of crossings on the Bradford-Carrollton Highway was completed. An improved highway entrance from Pennsylvania, free from grade crossings, is thus afforded.