DOTD considers change to railroad crossing

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is considering making changes at a railroad crossing near the intersection of U.S. 90 and Big John Road following a fatal crash involving two big rigs on Wednesday.

The state Department of Transportation and Development is considering implementing changes at the intersection near the railroad crossing where a crash involving two tractor-trailer rigs left one man dead Wednesday morning.

The driver of the first 18-wheeler stopped at the railroad crossing, and the second 18-wheeler failed to stop in time to prevent the crash. Pedro Alvarez, 54, of Houston, was killed when the pipes he was hauling in his big rig pierced the cab of his tractor-trailer during the impact.

The driver of the other tractor-trailer, James Campbell, 44, of Abbeville, received minor injuries in the accident.

The crash happened near the railroad tracks near Big John Road along U.S. 90 and shut the highway down for nearly 24 hours.

“So many people travel that road.  It’s a major safety concern, and it’s not getting any better,” said Iberia Parish President M. Larry Richard.

The 18-wheeler stopped at the tracks was stopped because the load he was carrying required him to stop. Federal law requires rigs carrying certain materials to stop at all railroad crossings, according to a statement made by State Police.

“Unfortunately, we have a significant number of accidents and deaths in Louisiana with railroad crossings,” said DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson.

The Federal Railroad Administration lists Louisiana as fourth in the nation for the number of highway-rail crossing fatalities.  

Residents near the area have been complaining about the intersection for years, and the state conducted a safety review after recognizing safety concerns with with multiple crashes occurring at the site.

“We have a crossing down on U.S. 90 and the department is currently in the feasibility of looking to eliminate that crossing,” said Wilson.

The state DOTD has proposed either an overpass or an underground pipeline to service the sugar mill that uses the track to transport molasses.

“We’re confident that once we go through the feasibility process working with the owners and the citizens and the community leaders that we will have a solution to hopefully prevent other accidents,” said Wilson.

“I don’t know what the correct proposal is. We need to look at the safety in that area,” Richard said. “It appears that they have a serious discussion going on. I think it is going to get somewhere, I really do.”

Funding for a change at the intersection may come from the proposed Interstate 49 corridor, which would convert U.S. 90 to interstate standards.

“We’ve asked them to give us segments of independent utility, which will allow us to proceed with construction at a much more affordable and deliverable sections,” said Wilson, who indicated that components will be built as funding becomes available.

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