Orangeburg mayor questions railroad crossing safety

ORANGEBURG, SC (WIS) - Lately, we've been reporting several crashes at railroad crossings - many of them deadly. Most recently, an 88-year-old man was inside a car in Orangeburg when it became trapped on a set of tracks. The crash killed him.

In Orangeburg alone - the number of train accidents has doubled since a train speed limit went up in 2001.

Jerry Welfare - a World War II veteran - was the driver killed in the most recent Orangeburg crash.

"I heard like a pop," says Ann Huggins, whose house is next to the tracks. She says several trains come by daily. "I think they're going a little too fast."

Trains can go 49 miles an hour. The speed increased from 15 miles an hour in 2001. Since then, there have been 16 accidents, with four deaths. That's double the number of accidents since before the speed increase.

Mayor of Orangeburg Paul Miller says, "It seems like we've had more than our fair share."

Miller says city leaders have asked the Federal Railroad Administration to lower the speed limit. "I wish they would consider the loss of life that we've had in Orangeburg with the accidents we've had and the possibility of a major event should we have a derailment with a chemical nature."

So far - the speed has not budged. WIS spoke with Norfolk Southern, whose trains come through there. They say the problem is not speed. Instead, they say there's too many small crossings.

But the mayor says the stretch where the accident happened is special because the tracks are next to SC State and Claflin Universities - with thousands of students.

Neighbors say it's too busy to risk. In fact, some want the trains gone. Huggins says, "I think they should stop the trains going through here. It's absurd - back in the day, okay - but not in this kind of traffic."

Reported by Jennifer Wilson

Posted by Chantelle Janelle