Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Scoop on SunRail crossing gates

Recently we published a post about our concerns that some SunRail railroad crossing gates seemed to be malfunctioning.

We reached out to SunRail with questions, and for their explanation on what we see happening sometimes at crossings.

Here’s are SunRail’s responses and explanations:

“We know that the operation of these signals is quite complex.

“For instance, it is important to note that the safest mode for the gates to be in -- is in the down position-- in fact they are designed to go into a fail-safe mode in the down position. This would not necessarily mean that there is a malfunction, because this is how the gates were designed to operate.

“For the last month there were a total of 21 reported crossing malfunctions, for the week in question of January 25th through January 31st there were a total of 5 reported crossing malfunctions...”

“Regarding Holden Avenue, we have had recurring issues at this crossing which have been identified and should be repaired in total this week (planned for today). In the interim, train crews have been directed to verify the crossing is operating correctly and proceed across the intersection at 15 MPH. This does not cause delays to SunRail trains.

“Regarding Michigan Street, a mechanical failure was reported on Friday that required a single train crew to stop and flag for protection pending repairs. The crossing gate was placed back in service at 1500 hours. No delays were reported to SunRail trains.

“Regarding the Central Boulevard crossing, this gate was working as intended. When a train is stopped NB at Church Street Station, the crossing control equipment sees the train on approach to the crossing, predicts the train’s speed and distance, and then activates the crossing. 

“When a train stops at the station, after a predetermined time, the gates will go up to allow for the flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Once the train starts to leave the station, the crossing gates will be re-activated and the engineer is not allowed per CFRC operating rules to cross through the intersection until the gates are fully deployed in a horizontal position.”

We also asked SunRail to review a video we shot showing the crossing gate at South Street in downtown Orlando remaining down in a horizontal position after the train left the station.

SunRail wrote:

“This does not appear to be a malfunction. The gates are working as intended. The gates likely stayed down on South Street due to where the locomotive engineer spotted the train in the block at the station. (In other words, where the train was parked at the station in relation to a sensor)”

So what did we learn from this?

The crossing-gates system is very complicated. The gates can and do fail, but SunRail seems to be diligent about making timely repairs.

That said, we’re going to tell our loved ones to be very careful when they pass through a SunRail railroad crossing. Even though the gate just went up, a train could be on its way to the crossing.

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