Washington Road railroad bridge
The Washington Road railroad bridge was discussed at the Public Safety & Welfare Committee meeting yesterday afternoon. Mike Lemens, director of public works, said that this issue is of great concern to at least two alderpersons and the citizens of their districts. Those two alderpersons, whose districts abut the bridge, were present at the meeting.
This issue was discussed at a prior meeting about two months ago. Click here to read that article: Two Public Safety Issues. Lemens said that additional signs were installed, and the railroad promised to fix the fascia and other repairs, but these have not been completed yet. The most recent completion date they’ve provided is December 12th.
Lemens distributed several documents for the committee’s review: a map showing the truck routes and trestles over the roadways and their respective heights, and a chart showing the crash history for the last three years. The number of accidents spiked in 2012. There was one accident in 2010, one in 2011, and 8 in 2012. The reason given was the I-94 construction work and the fact that trucks needed to be re-routed.
Alderperson Eric Haugaard, from the first district, representing the neighborhood east of the district, stated that his neighborhood is concerned about the crashes. “There is a cause and effect here,” he said. The Washington Road height was lowered from 12′ 6″ to 12′ 4″. He requested that city staff research the systems available. “I know that the railroad has limited resources,” he said. He said that he had contacted the Transportation Institute, the Center for Truck and Bus Safety, and they gave him information about a laser-based system, which identifies the over height condition and then triggers flashing lights. They are exploring this technology. He also expressed his concern that there are other bridges in the city which could require some attention also.
The other alderperson, Tod Ohnstad, from the 6th district, representing the neighborhood west of the viaduct, also spoke. “There are kids that walk to and from school under that bridge about 200 days a year. Plus, there are other elements. When an accident occurs, the truck ties up traffic for two hours. Police attention is also a factor. There is a new facade being put up, which looks like hell. It’s brand new before another truck hits it. This is a major gateway to downtown, Washington Bowl Park, and the lake shore. We need to make sure that all viaducts are safe.” He thanked the committee for placing the item on the agenda both at this meeting and the meeting two months ago.
Lemens stated that he found a system in southeast Wisconsin installed by TAPCO, Traffic and Park Control. It’s been installed on the freeway system. “It’s sophisticated and pricey, about $90,000,” he said. The city staff is not finished with its research yet. “This is not a small task,” said Lemens. “And, the thing is, you can put the system in place, but there is no guarantee that the warnings will be heeded.”
Alderperson Anthony Kennedy wanted to know how much it costs for the police to respond to bridge hits. Kenosha Police Captain Daniel Miskinis said that he would work on obtaining this figure. Kennedy said that the last time this issue was discussed, we came up with some idea, and still the bridge got hit. “I was laughted at, and ignored. I’m pissed off now,” he said. “Last time, we were told that it was the railroad’s responsibility. Now, our response is independent of the railroad company’s.
Ohnstad mentioned another option, digging. Lemens said that the problem with that option is the drainage systems don’t exist. Shelly Billingsley, the city’s engineering director, said that rainwater would create a bowl, which would make the road impassable during a storm. Lemens mentioned the low-tech idea proposed last time, the sign over the roadway. Once the driver hits the sign, it would be a signal to him that the truck would not clear. But, the question is, “Would the driver even notice? He wouldn’t even know until the sign was hit. We need something to warn the driver well in advance. Something that will provide an escape route. This would add to the sophistication of the equipment and the cost,” said Lemens.
Alderperson Rocco LaMacchia, a member of the committee, said that he was happy that the issue was not dropped. “The issue is driver error. But, you can’t fix stupidity,” he said. Haugaard also mentioned some GPS software that warns you in advance of overpasses that might not be high enough. “There is a responsibility element present here, also,” he said.