A new system could warn motorists that the Defiance Street Norfolk Southern railroad crossing is blocked by a train long before they arrive at the intersection.
Dexter Krueger, assistant village engineer, explained the system to the Archbold Traffic Flow Improvement Committee at its Tuesday, April 16 meeting.
Krueger said the system involves a light or beacon installed blocks away from the crossing that would be triggered when a train blocks the tracks.
Signs posted at or near the lights would explain why the light is activated, and could encourage alternate routes.
Krueger presented photos of a similar system he examined in Oregon. There, the lights are blue, to set them apart from other warning lights.
There are two ways to trigger the lights.
One method is to wire equipment to activate the lights into the Norfolk Southern crossing activation circuitry. When the crossing gates and lights are triggered, the “crossing blocked” lights are activated, too.
The problem, he said, is it would cost about $20,000 to have NS workers make the wiring connections, and it would be done at the convenience of NS.
Another method would place a manual activation switch at the police station. When officers discover the crossing is blocked, they would activate it themselves.
There is the possibility a video detection system, using cameras similar to the Archbold traffic signals, could be established.
The warning lights themselves would be turned off and on by radio signal.
The group discussed the question of who the lights are designed to warn: local motorists or truck drivers driving through, or into, the village?
If the warning lights are meant for locals, then they would be placed closer to the tracks. If they are to assist truckers, they would be farther away.
To be of advantage to truckers, the lights would have to be far enough away to allow them to take an alternate route, either through the Clyde’s Way underpass or Co. Rd. 24.
The warning light idea was referred to the council streets and sidewalk committee for further review.
Leo Wixom III, police chief, said since APD started issuing citations to NS for blocking the crossing, the number of minutes the crossing has been blocked has decreased.
He reported in January, the crossing was blocked for 659 minutes (10 hours, 59 minutes). In February, the time was reduced to 592 minutes, (9:52).
In March, the amount of time the crossing was blocked was 379 minutes (6:19).
Wixom told ATFIC members he had been contacted by an NS lawyer who is interested in resolving the matter.
Wixom could not directly tie the reduction in blocked crossing time to his talks with the attorney.
But he said the NS attorney told him if the amount of time the crossing is blocked does not continue to decrease, “to let him know so he can make some more phone calls and take care of some of those issues,” Wixom said.
Bill Rufenacht, county commissioner, asked about fines paid by NS for blocking the crossing. Wixom said a judge has not determined the final fines.
The group also discussed signs, such as those on US20A, to direct truck traffic away from downtown.
The logic against signs is that only a small percentage of drivers pay attention to them.
But Rufenacht said even if only 20% follow the signs, that improves Archbold traffic problems by 20%, and does so at a lower cost.
He suggested making signs two to three times bigger than they currently are, or adding lights.
Bob Seaman, village engineer, pointed out some of the issues with signs: they can’t be placed on Ohio Department of Transportation highway right-of-way, and they can’t advertise a route as a truck bypass or designated truck route, per ODOT rules.
Kevin Morton, president of Archbold village council, asked where they go from this point.
“I don’t know that we need to spend any more time trying to drag the commissioners into this. I don’t know what good it does,” he said.
“The point has been made that it’s a local issue, and I think we appeased some people by putting this committee together, but I don’t think that it’s functional at this point and serving the purpose the village of Archbold hoped that it would.
“I think we need to regroup and be a little bit more realistic and intentional about what our options are.
“We haven’t done anything. Billy, am I wrong here that the commissioners really don’t have anything to add to this situation?” Morton asked Rufenacht.
“No, you’re not wrong,” Rufenacht said.
No further meetings of ATFIC were scheduled.
In addition to those mentioned, attending were Donna Dettling, village administrator; Andy Brodbeck, Skip Leupp, and Joe Short, German Township trustees; Brad Short and Kevin Eicher, village council; Ellen Smith, Maumee Valley Planning office, and Matt Gilroy, executive director, Fulton County Economic Development Corporation.