Feds predict likelihood of crashes at Central Florida railroad crossings

21% chance vehicle will be hit by train at Michigan Ave. in Orlando in next year

By Mike DeForest - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - As a motorist was stopped in traffic on West Colonial Drive in June 2017, the driver may not have immediately realized that the vehicle’s back end was partially hanging over the railroad tracks that cut through downtown Orlando.

Surveillance video from the cab of an oncoming SunRail locomotive showed the train plowing into the sedan as the passenger vehicle attempted to pull forward.

No one was injured in the collision, which was one of three to occur at that railroad crossing between 2012 and 2017, federal records show.

The Federal Railroad Administration later predicted that there was a 19.3 percent chance that another vehicle would be struck by a train at the West Colonial Drive crossing within a year, according to the agency’s Web Accident Prediction System.

In April, an SUV attempting to cross West Colonial Drive was hit by a SunRail train, video obtained by Orlando Police shows. The driver was taken to a hospital in serious condition.

[READ: Accident prediction report]

Using a computer model, FRA calculated the likelihood of another collision at the West Colonial Drive crossing based on the five-year prior crash history there, along with other data, such as the number of trains that pass over the road each day (10) and the average daily traffic count for highway vehicles (43,235).

According to FRA, the chances of a collision between a train and a highway vehicle within a year at the following Central Florida railroad crossings are:

  • 8.6% at Mason Avenue in Daytona Beach
  • 7.7% at Washington Street in New Smyrna Beach
  • 12.6% at West Eau Gallie Boulevard in Melbourne
  • 12.8% at South Orlando Avenue in Winter Park
  • 14% at Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (U.S. 192) in Kissimmee
  • 21.1% at West Michigan Avenue in Orlando

The railroad crossing with the highest likelihood of a crash in Florida is located near Cypress Creek Road in Pompano Beach, according to the FRA study.  The collision prediction at that crossing is 37.2 percent within a year.

“This computer model does not rank crossings in terms of most to least dangerous,” the FRA report cautions. “Use of WBAPS data in this manner is incorrect and misleading.”

Instead, the federal agency makes the crash predictions to help law enforcement and governments identify railroad crossings that may require additional or specialized attention.

Representatives with the Florida Department of Transportation confirmed the state agency considers the FRA’s predictions when evaluate railroad crossings statewide.

“We use the FRA’s Web Accident Prediction System as a base reference to develop our own algorithm tool that’s more unique to Florida’s network,” said an FDOT spokesperson. “In addition, we will sometimes augment the algorithm output with Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis to increase the confidence of the output.”

The FRA does not consider certain factors such as sight-distance, highway congestion or local topography when calculating its collision predictions, according to the agency.

With a chance of a collision at 21.1 percent, the railroad crossing on West Michigan Avenue in Orlando has the highest likelihood of a crash in Central Florida, according to FHA’s data.

When News 6 Traffic Safety Expert Steve Montiero visited that crossing, he did not notice anything particularly dangerous that would contribute to collisions there.

“This is a very busy road. We are two blocks just east of I-4, so a lot of local traffic uses this,” Montiero said. “But at the end of the day, if a driver is paying attention and stops right where they’re supposed to stop (at the railroad crossing), no crashes should happen.”

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