Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Crashes at Rail Crossings Would Be Issue Here

We’re not letting go of this week’s safety theme quite yet, since some continue to express support for an at-grade system in Honolulu.

Monday’s post highlighted Portland, OR bicycle-track accidents, and yesterday’s focus was Portland’s 26 fatalities involving the city’s light-rail MAX at-grade system since 1986.

Nationwide, there were 1,913 vehicle-train collisions at public and private crossings in 2009 that resulted in 248 deaths and 719 injuries, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

The vast majority of those crashes did not involve municipal light-rail systems, and since the FRA reported them, maybe none of them did; light-rail transit statistics are reported elsewhere. But consider this:

Mainland drivers are infinitely more accustomed to negotiating rail crossings than Honolulu residents are, since we have no trains on the island except for a tourist-oriented train in leeward Oahu. Yet hundreds of mainlanders die each year despite that familiarity.

Honolulu surely would record road intersection crashes if an at-grade system were built here instead of the elevated system for which a Final Environmental Impact Statement has been completed. An at-grade route would cross dozens of intersections through an exceptionally crowded urban core, especially in downtown Honolulu.

Asserting that at-grade transit is “cheaper” to build than elevated systems completely ignores the cost of fatalities, injuries and property damage that is completely avoided by building overhead -- as Honolulu's system will be built.

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