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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Railroad Commission Orders Safety Features At Country Meadows Road

Issue Date: August 12, 2020

On Monday, Aug. 10, almost exactly a year after an informational meeting was held between the Town of Peshtigo and Wisconsin Department of Transportation on ways to eliminate at least some of the hazards at what has been determined to be one of the most dangerous railroad crossings in the area - Country Meadows Road at the Taco Bell and Aurora Health Care Clinic access.

The office of the Commissioner of Railroads has issued an order laying out the solutions. which include improving signals at the crossing, and allowing only right turns in for traffic coming from Hwy. 41 and right turns out onto Hwy. 41 from Country Meadows Road. There is to be no crossing of the Hwy. 41 median at that point, and no left turns will be allowed.

Under the order, the Sault Ste. Marie Railroad is to install and maintain 12-inch LED automatic flashing lights with gates, constant warning time circuitry, and other appropriate appurtenances at the on-grade crossing of its tracks with Country Meadows Road in the town of Peshtigo, in conjunction with, or after completion other safety improvements specified in the order.

The Town of Peshtigo is to install and maintain appropriate advance warning signs on the southern approach to the Country Meadows Road crossing , and the DOT is to install and maintain an advance warning sign on the USH-41 northbound approach to the Country Meadows Road and a crossing activated blank-out prohibiting right turns from US 41 onto Country Meadows Road when the crossing is closed, by December 31 of 2021.

If all deadlines and other conditions are met, the railroad will not be required to bear any of the cost of the crossing signal materials or installation, except for any cost specifically assessed to the railroad. WisDoT is funding the median project with money from the National Highway System Safety Improvement Program.

According to the accompanying report, the intersection of Hwy. 41 and Country Meadows Road has been determined one of the most dangerous intersections in the state. In early 2009, a father and four of his children were killed when hit by a drunk-driver as they crossed northbound USH 41 from Country Meadows Road intending to turn south (left) onto USH 41. This accident is only one of the majority of the accidents at the intersection as vehicles turn south onto USH 41 from Country Meadows Road across an open median.

The report declared, "As horrific as this accident was, it would take the WisDOT almost a decade to plan to extend the median to prevent such turns.

The problems at the intersection are compounded by the railroad's Marinette Subdivision running parallel to, and 30 feet to the right of northbound USH 41, crossing Country Meadows Road at-grade. The railroad crossing has been the scene of at least 10 vehicle-train accidents since 2002; four that involved injuries and one in 2015 that involved multiple injuries.

The report says WisDOT has dismissed closing the intersection and instead planned to close the median to prevent left turns onto Hwy. 41 from Country Meadows Road. However, there remains a risk to vehicles turning right because the railroad crossing is also "short throated", meaning that there is little to no clear storage distance between the fouling line at the tracks (four feet from the near rail) and the stop line at the intersection. "The clear storage is woefully insufficient for a 73.5-foot long semi-trailer, which, is the design vehicle for calculating sight distances at railroad crossings.

Closing the median would eliminate the problem with vehicles turning south (left) from Country Meadows Road. However, there still remains a high volume of traffic on USH 41 northbound and a lesser, but still considerable amount of traffic using the Country Meadows Road to turn north (right) onto USH 41. This high traffic coupled with the short throated storage means that vehicles will often be waiting on the tracks where trains are traveling at 40 mph.

A do not stop on the tracks sign would serve little purpose. Moreover, right turns onto Country Meadows Road will have little visibility of a train paralleling USH 41 behind a driver.


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