DOT proposes safety upgrades for Aberdeen railroad crossings

According to Nancy Horne, NCDOT’s rail signal rails manager, a project to improve the hazardous conditions at a railroad crossing in downtown Aberdeen has taken a decade to reach this point.

At the Aberdeen Board of Commissioners meeting on Feb. 26, Horne and NCDOT Rails Division Consulting Engineer Richard Mullinax presented proposed safety improvements to the South Street and South Sycamore Street train intersection near High Octane Coffee.

Four railroad crossings exist at the intersection, with a history of train and motor vehicle collisions. Aberdeen Carolina Western Railway (ACWR) reported that two conductors have been struck over the last several years. The ACWR does not have active warning systems, but the CSX rail has flashing lights and drop-down arms to stop cars. The ACWR runs through South Sycamore and South Street; within very close proximity (65 feet) is a CSX crossing.

The proposed safety upgrades include train signals, landscaping and sidewalk improvements, and a dedicated one-way street on Sycamore, south of South Street.

The project would include each ACWR crossing implementing flashing lights with bells and a traffic signal with a warning device connected to the rail system warning when a train was approaching.

A map of the planned improvements for the area was displayed during the meeting, and Horne and Mullinax answered questions asked by the Commissioners. While one parking space would be eliminated during the upgrade to install a pole, the town would benefit from an additional 21 parking spaces implemented on the proposed one-way street on Sycamore.

A map of the planned improvements at S. Sycamore Street and South Street. Rendering via the Town of Aberdeen.

Mullinax stated that the proposed one-way on Sycamore intends to increase safety and ensure cars aren’t “queued up” on the rails while a train is in the intersection.

Horne stated that the project would cost an estimated $2.5 million or more, and under a Federal Highway Administration program, specifically section 1-30, is expected to fund the proposed project. This program focuses on eliminating hazards at railroad crossings.

The town could anticipate paying an estimated $1,600 for half of the annual railway maintenance.

At the onset of the discussion, Aberdeen Planning Director John Terziu stated that the presentation by Horne and Mullinax was for information-only purposes and that no vote would be held at this meeting. The feedback from the Board of Commission members was positive and reflected a desire to schedule a work session and vote on the project in March. Horne indicated in her comments that additional funding could be available if the project were committed to by June.

Mullinax stated that “the project is complex as it involves the Town of Aberdeen, CSX, and ACWR and the extent of the work being done here. The decision to move forward ultimately will rest with the town.”

Feature photo: A driver was injured after a freight train hit his cargo van in Aberdeen at the E. South Street and S. Sycamore Street railroad crossing in November 2022/Sandhills Sentinel.

Sandhills_Sentinel~ Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Maggie Sergio.

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