Fatal crash in Edinburgh prompts new warnings, concerns about railroad crossing safety

Photo from the scene of the crash courtesy of Robert Wilson.

EDINBURGH, Ind. – A crash that took the life of a 74-year-old woman in Edinburgh is sparking new concerns and warnings about safety at many central Indiana railroad crossings.

Sharon Gobin died after her car collided with a train passing through downtown Edinburgh around 12:30 Monday afternoon. While the accident is still being investigated, Edinburgh Police Chief David Mann confirmed the warning lights at the crossing were flashing at the time of the crash. Mann said video from onboard the train showed the lights flashing as the train approached the crossing.

The crash is renewing the call among some residents for improved safety features at crossings along the Louisville-Indiana Railroad. Recent upgrades to the railroad have allowed trains to increase their speed limit from 25 mph to 49 mph, including through downtown Edinburgh.

Over the last two years, several mayors and community leaders have tried to get the federal government to force the railroad to pay for safety upgrades at crossings south of Indianapolis. Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers was at the forefront of that effort.

“You know I was sitting at the county courthouse with three of the county commissioners when that happened yesterday,” Myers said. “And we all just looked at each other and said we know it was going to happen.”

After failing to force the railroad to fund safety features like crossing arms, Myers and several other mayors were able to secure $5.4 million in grant funding to pay for augmented warning signals and other safety features at 19 railroad crossings through Johnson County. But Myers says that money won’t be available until 2022, and the trains have already increased their speeds.

“So we’re going to start seeing an increased number of trains at an increased speed through downtown Edinburgh, Franklin, Whiteland, Greenwood and through Johnson County,” Myers said. “And that scares me.”

Myers’ overall message to the public is to be extra vigilant and cautious at railroad crossings, even those that do have lowering crossing arms. He said everyone needs to remember that trains along the Louisville-Indiana Railroad may be moving at nearly twice the speed they were a year ago.

The grant funding does not include funding any upgrades to the downtown Edinburgh crossing where Gobin died Monday.

Edinburgh Town Manager Wade Watson expressed condolences for friends and loved ones of Gobin after Monday’s fatal crash. He also expressed concern over the safety of drivers and pedestrians in downtown Edinburgh.

“Part of our concerns surround the increased speeds that the railroad has been approved to come through our community,” Watson said.

“We are concerned because of the limited visibility that we have at our crossings,” he continued. “But we do what we can and we are negotiating with the railroad to upgrade those crossing signals.”

However, Louisville-Indiana Railroad President John Goldman said Tuesday he was not aware of the town of Edinburgh contacting the railroad for assistance with safety upgrades at crossings.

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