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Railroad crossing: Growing concern after train accidents in the Tri-Cities

JOHNSON CITY, TN - Two fatal train accidents in Johnson City this year alone are prompting growing concerns about railroad safety. Questions from viewers contributed to an investigation to determine just how fast trains are traveling, particularly through downtown Johnson City. 

On the track that runs through Washington, and Greene County, Tennessee including Telford, Jonesborough, and Johnson City trains can top speeds at 65 miles per hour but typically don't go faster than 35 miles per hour through towns. 

News Channel 11 spoke with police and railroad officials about what they are doing to keep people save when trains move through populated areas. 

"I just had a friend die over that, he stepped out in front of one," Jerry Crum said.  

Jerry Crum's best friend of 30 years, 50-year-old George Pealer was one of the two people struck and killed by a train moving through downtown Johnson City.

"They have got so much weight and they are going so fast, they cannot stop. that's the bad thing. it is just too much," Crum said  

"A train is not going to stop on a dime, it takes a lot of distance for a train to stop so people need to be weary and pay attention to the tracks and trains," Lieutenant Becky West said.  

Lieutenant Becky West with Johnson City police says trains are not allowed to go more than 35 miles per hour through downtown. 

We wanted to know just how fast trains moving through Washington County and Johnson City normally travel so we tested the speed ourselves with radar gun we bought online. 

The highest speed we clocked a train going through downtown Johnson City was 27 miles per hour for bt Jerry Crum that's still too fast. 

"They just need to slow down, they are going way too fast." 

In the last three years there have been more than 20 train accidents in upper East Tennessee, with Sullivan county taking the majority. 

In Southwest Virginia there have been 15 train accidents in Washington, wise, and Scott counties. None of those accidents were due to speeding issues but by the public somehow getting close to moving trains. 

While a speeding train may not have caused the death of his longtime friend, Jerry Crum says he will remain vigilant and alert when trains roll through. He encourages others in the community to do the same. 

A spokesperson with Norfolk Southern railway told us that train operators do monitor tracks and try to signal their horn when a pedestrian or vehicle is near the tracks.

Johnson City police say during big events or festivals in the downtown area they notify train companies to adjust their speed due to the influx of pedestrians. 
 


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