DOT considers improvements for rail crossings

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

State officials are looking into possible improvements of Plainville’s rail crossings.

Town staff, along with state Representative William Petit (R-Plainville, New Britain), state Senator Henri Martin (R-Plainville), Plainville Police Chief Matt Catania and Pan Am Railways held a meeting with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to review seven rail crossings in town.

DOT staff said funds are currently available to make some improvements to the warning devices at several crossings, said Town Manager Robert Lee during a Town Council meeting last Monday. Broad Street, Town Line Road and West Main Street were critical crossings identified at the meeting. As the result of the meeting, said Lee, DOT will begin a detailed analysis of all the railroad crossings in Plainville to determine what improvements should be made to comply with the Federal Railroad Administration requirements.

On a Sunday night last December, an elderly man crashed his car into a Pan Am train as it was crossing Broad Street, and did not sustain any injuries. Although there are no crossing gates at that intersection, a Pan Am employee was posted at the intersection waving a flashlight to alert drivers.

At the time of the accident, which was 10 p.m., the train was transporting empty propane tanks. In recent months business increased for Pan Am, which added a second shift to the Plainville operation—mostly due to the increased demand of propane.

Federal regulations require the railroad to sound the whistle at all grade crossings, and Connecticut municipalities have not authority to restrict rail operations.

“Some of the improvements could be made perhaps this summer while others, such as West Main Street, will require significantly more study time,” said Lee, adding that the meeting with DOT was very productive. “As it stands right now, no local town funds would be required for any of the proposed improvements that would be recommended.”

“It’s encouraging that they’ll be able to do some work on some of those crossings. Some of them do need a little bit of help,” added Town Council Chairperson Kathy Pugliese.

The railroad tracks that run through downtown Plainville. (LISA SANCHEZ GONZALES)