In 2011, 22 people were fatally injured by Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) trains. To date in 2012, 14 people have died on the railroad’s right-of-way. Some of these deaths were ruled suicides. Several were not at crossings or other public access locations. In addition to the fatalities, numerous serious injuries have occured as a result of accidents on the railroad.
Although the railroad has stepped up efforts to install fencing along the line, some areas that are particular problems have not been touched. A portion of the line in Bellport, where a 13 year-old boy was hit in 2011, remains unfenced despite area residents’ pleas. The railroad says that fencing all 670 miles of the railroad isn’t feasible.
However, safety experts have called for the LIRR to fence all 670 miles to prevent people from accessing railroad property. Since 2010, the LIRR has installed five miles of fencing. It has an inspection program that includes input from local police and community leaders about dangerous spots along the line. However, the thrust of the safety program sometimes seems to be reactive.
For example, the LIRR recently repaired a section of fence with a hole that two teenage boys had climbed through only to be burned by an electrified third rail. In February, the railroad installed fencing near the Copiague Station after two boys were killed by a train after climbing onto the tracks. However, they have not repaired damage or installed new fencing at every accident site. There is still no fence where 14 year-old boy was hit while crossing the tracks near his Bellport home. The boy survived, but he has ongoing cognitive difficulties and his family has sued the railroad.
Some parts of the line have become unofficial crossings because the official crossings are too far apart. Factory employees travel across the tracks from their buses to their workplace. The closest official crossing is a quarter of a mile away. Safety experts say that when the legal crossings are that far away, the line should be fenced in to force people to use the crossings.
Although residents along the line have voiced their concerns over safety, the LIRR has received kudos from others. The Federal Railroad Administration praised the New York commuter line for its use of eight-foot-tall high-intensity security fencing that is difficult to climb. But even the most high-tech fence must be installed. At the current rate, it will be many years before all 670 miles of track are fenced.
Source: Newsday, “LIRR fencing off dangerous trespassing spots along tracks,” Sep. 29, 2012.