Railroad crossing gates could be installed on Dickson Street

Traffic passes over the railroad crossing on Dickson Street in Fayetteville Monday morning.

A highly trafficked Fayetteville railroad crossing could soon receive a safety gate.

The City Council next week will discuss whether to enter a cost-sharing agreement with the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad to install safety arms for both vehicles and pedestrians at the Dickson Street railroad crossing by George’s Majestic Lounge.

Officials have discussed installing a gate on Dickson Street for years to improve safety in the area.

According to a city memo, there have been three collisions involving trains and vehicles at the Dickson Street crossing since 1999. The most recent accident happened last September when a 29-year-old woman suffered minor injuries after her Nissan Xterra was broadsided by a train. The vehicle was dragged about 30 feet north of Dickson Street and destroyed several sections of guard fencing before the train finally came to a stop. According to reports, the woman told police she didn’t hear the train approaching.

Example of a safety gate with vehicle and pedestrian arms.

City documents

There are 18 railroad crossings in Fayetteville listed on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis website. Five of those crossings have gates, including several along Gregg Avenue that were added during a state highway improvement project several years ago.

The cost-sharing agreement was first proposed last month by A&M Railroad president Brent McCready, in response to a request from Mayor Lioneld Jordan for four easements needed to build new sections of the city’s trail system.

Matt Mihalevich, the city’s trails coordinator, told members of the City Council’s Transportation Committee last month that two of the easements are needed now to finish construction of the Tsa La Gi Trail which passes through two student apartment complexes just south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“Those are critical pieces of a trail that I think is going to get a lot of use,” Mihalevich said. “I don’t know if they’ll go through with giving us the property we need if we don’t go this route.”

The other two crossings are for the planned Town Branch Trail and a trail near Cato Springs Road that will eventually provide access to the planned regional park in southwest Fayetteville.

McCready estimated the total cost of the safety improvements at $500,000, but Fayetteville City Engineer Chris Brown said that number sounded a little high.

Brown said the gated crossing recently installed on Cato Springs Road during a street widening project cost a total of about $300,000.

Mihalevich said there is potential for the city to receive state grant funds to help pay for its half of the safety gate if the City Council agrees to move forward with the proposal.

“[A&M Railroad officials] want it done by 2015 so we have some time to figure out where the money would come from,” said Mihalevich.