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Metro North, 6 dead

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Posted by gardendance on Thursday, February 12, 2015 9:13 AM

oltmannd
zugmann

...

  To prevent a situation like this one on Metro North (where the car was on the tracks before the crossing activated) 

 

 

+1  Well put.

As others have mentioned.... In this case the car WASN'T on the crossing when the gates came down.  

If I'm going to nitpick about zugmann saying the car was on the tracks before the gates came down I'll also have to nitpick about you saying it wasn't on the crossing. I guess this is kind of like the nitpicking about if ITS's car on crossing detection is part of PTC. In my opinion the area after the gate IS part of the crossing, so I say the SUV was on the crossing before the gate came down, otherwise the gate wouldn't have hit the SUV's back.

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Posted by oltmannd on Thursday, February 12, 2015 11:27 AM

gardendance

 

 
oltmannd
zugmann

...

  To prevent a situation like this one on Metro North (where the car was on the tracks before the crossing activated) 

 

 

+1  Well put.

As others have mentioned.... In this case the car WASN'T on the crossing when the gates came down.  

 

 

If I'm going to nitpick about zugmann saying the car was on the tracks before the gates came down I'll also have to nitpick about you saying it wasn't on the crossing. I guess this is kind of like the nitpicking about if ITS's car on crossing detection is part of PTC. In my opinion the area after the gate IS part of the crossing, so I say the SUV was on the crossing before the gate came down, otherwise the gate wouldn't have hit the SUV's back.

 

If the car had stayed put after the gate hit it, it wouldn't have been hit by the train.

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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Posted by gardendance on Thursday, February 12, 2015 12:04 PM

I agree. I'm just nitpicking about when the gate came down you saying it wasn't on the crossing, and zugmann saying it was on the tracks. It was on the crossing, but not on the tracks when the gate came down, if there's enough space between the gate and the tracks and the witness report is accurate.

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Posted by edblysard on Thursday, February 12, 2015 1:45 PM
Driving home yesterday in the lovely stop and go Houston freeway traffic, my mind began to wander, as it normally does when your freeway speed is six feet a minute…
I think I know how she ended up on the crossing.
We have all been stuck in that kind of traffic, the kind where the car ahead moves up a car length, and you close the gap without even thinking about it…you do it reflexively, it is beyond habit.
I would think if this lady were in stop and go traffic, and like most of us, began to wonder and think about anything else but driving, letting her mental autopilot keep the pace, it isn’t a far leap to imagine she may simply have lost track of where she was, and pulled up on the crossing by reflex, unaware of where she was.
Now, when the gate bumps into her car, she would think the car behind her tapped her bumper, so she stops, gets out to look, and still unaware of where she has stopped, she walks back to check.
I would guess she realized where she was when she saw the gate, and it is possible she may have thought she was on the far side…maybe not,, but as has been noted before, most folks wont drive through the gate thinking it is fixed and solid.
The driver behind her states she got back in her car, took a moment, (as if she was buckling up) and then drove forward, which would make me think either she was unwilling to back up through the gate, or she thought she was already on the far side of the crossing, or she realized she was on the tracks , didn’t know which track the train was on, and was trying to clear both tracks because she became frightened.
This is just my opinion, but it may be the herd mentality we all have when sitting in that type of traffic may be the reason she ended up there in the first place.

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Posted by Euclid on Thursday, February 12, 2015 2:05 PM
Ed,
I think that is exactly what happened.   I had not considered that she might have interpreted the sound (and maybe slight jar) of the gate to be the car behind her bumping her car.  But either that or realizing that the gate was on top of her vehicle would be a good reason to get out and take a look.  She was in an unusually heavy flow of congested traffic because it was being detoured over the crossing due to an accident on the nearby artery road.   Ordinarily, the crossing would have very light traffic.  
I am not sure where the gate landed, but if it was near the rear of the top, I can see how someone would not be inclined to back up and have it drag the length of the top and then drop down and drag the length of the hood.   And if the gate was perched somewhat down the back of the vehicle, the driver would surely opt to escape by moving forward rather that backing up.   
As others have said, she should have just stayed put if she was in the clear of the train, but I suspect that she became unsure of what to do and panicked.  The approaching train, with its horn sounding, may have convinced her that she had to move, so she impulsively went forward because by that time, the traffic ahead had moved forward and made room. 
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Posted by blue streak 1 on Thursday, February 12, 2015 5:18 PM

rdamon
I can imagine if the end/beginning of the third rail is just a square end it would tend to impale things.

 

I wonder if a design like this would reduce the chances of something getting under it. There could be an insulated joint that keeps them from electrocuting the worms.

 

 

 

This would not work for third rail.   --------   but --------

Why not place this type guard rail outside of the plane of the third rail closer to the roadway ?  That way the guard rail would engage any vehicle and lift it over the third rail.  That might roll the vehicle but could prevent impaling the loco / cab car / MU.  

 

 

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Thursday, February 12, 2015 9:05 PM

Viewing this somewhat skewed crossing from an on-the-road view (Google's "Ferdinand" ?), there might be enough distance from the crossing gate to the track - or the nearest rail - for a short SUV to fit in there, with perhaps some overhang at the front end. 

What seems to be under discussion here is a railroad version of "Don't Block the Box!", a well-known initiative in New York City - just 20 miles to the south (and others)  - to keep drivers from creating gridlock by coming to a stop in the common/ overlapping area in the core of an intersection.  See (photos are not mine): 

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/7073/dont-block-the-box-or-else/ 

http://s20.photobucket.com/user/Eric1218/media/blockthebox.jpg.html 

So perhaps instead of "DO NOT STOP ON TRACKS", to achieve more recognition by drivers the sign should read "DO NOT BLOCK THE TRACKS".    

 - Paul North.

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Posted by wanswheel on Thursday, February 12, 2015 10:41 PM
Commerce St. crosses at an angle hard for a northbound driver to see a northbound train.
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Posted by rdamon on Friday, February 13, 2015 5:31 AM

Good article.

Here is a link for the crossing: https://goo.gl/maps/OMrhp

 Looks like the sign is on the other side.

https://goo.gl/maps/kFkzQ

 

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Posted by oltmannd on Friday, February 13, 2015 8:25 AM

Euclid
She was in an unusually heavy flow of congested traffic because it was being detoured over the crossing due to an accident on the nearby artery road.   Ordinarily, the crossing would have very light traffic.  

Read the USA article.  Yes, it was detour traffic, but the road through the cemetary is kind of a "sneaky back way". Normally, it would have no commuter traffic at all - it is just one of many access roads to the massive, Gate of Heaven cemetary.   It obviously didn't have  the entire flow of the Taconic Pkwy on it as the guy behind her said there was no one behind him, and he backed up quickly to give her room.

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Posted by Euclid on Friday, February 13, 2015 10:16 AM

oltmannd
 
Euclid
She was in an unusually heavy flow of congested traffic because it was being detoured over the crossing due to an accident on the nearby artery road.   Ordinarily, the crossing would have very light traffic.  

Read the USA article.  Yes, it was detour traffic, but the road through the cemetary is kind of a "sneaky back way". Normally, it would have no commuter traffic at all - it is just one of many access roads to the massive, Gate of Heaven cemetary.   It obviously didn't have  the entire flow of the Taconic Pkwy on it as the guy behind her said there was no one behind him, and he backed up quickly to give her room.

 

Don,
I did read the article and every other article that I have found since the accident.  Generally, they all refer to unusually heavy traffic due to the detour.  Some articles have said that the effect of this unusually high traffic flow will be looked at to see if it was a factor in the crash.
I have no idea what the traffic was on or near the crossing at the time of the accident.  However, without knowing otherwise, I assume that when the gate lowered on the vehicle, it was stopped.  And I assume that the reason it stopped was because the car ahead of it stopped because it was stop-and-go traffic.   I do not think that the driver simply stopped at the crossing for some other reason. 

 

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Posted by wanswheel on Friday, February 13, 2015 11:05 AM
The reason she stopped seems to be that she had no choice, except to stop right on the track, and the sign said don’t. I think she made the blunder because she had no experience estimating the speed of a tiny noisy train in the distance, but did know from experience that, if she must move promptly, backing up is a slow, tricky procedure compared  to flooring it in drive.
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Posted by Euclid on Friday, February 13, 2015 11:30 AM

Paul_D_North_Jr
 
Euclid
[snipped; emphasis added - PDN] . . . The basic point that matters here is that a new system will automatically sense obstructions on grade crossings and stop trains if necessary in order to prevent collisions.  And this new system will rely on PTC.   

Or in any other document, webpage, etc. from either the FRA, AAR, a Class 1 RR, or any organization other than an individual ? 

Because I'm not aware of it, and I haven't seen it here (yet).  If that's denial, so be it - I'm going to deny seeing it, because I haven't.  Wishes, good intentions, and/ or a fervent belief that it's a better system is simply not going to make it appear out of thin air, when no such statement or representation to that effect has been made by any organization.    

- Paul North. 

 

 

Paul,
It is not expressly stated.  It is just my characterization of my general interpretation of the concept as it is laid out in a variety of published documents.  When I said “stop trains if necessary,” I simply mean that it sets in motion the response of stopping trains.  I do not mean to imply that this will always be accomplished by overriding the engineer and automatically applying the brakes.  Some of what I have read strongly implies that, but it is not clear enough to be certain.   But clearly, the point is to sense obstructions and produce the result of stopping or slowing the train as required.
I can see three possibilities:
1)    System warns the engineer and leaves the choice of action entirely up to the engineer; including the choice to take no action.
2)    System warns the engineer, and overrides the engineer with a brake application if the engineer does not respond within a certain amount of time.
3)    System warns the engineer, and immediately overrides the intentions of the engineer with a brake application.
I would include any of these three possibilities as an action to “stop trains if necessary,” as I said in my interpretation of the concept.  I see the main point of this system as being the ability for it to sense an obstruction before it is close enough for the engineer to see it.
Also, in going back and reviewing the material in the FRA link about Intelligent Grade Crossings, I find that I am unable to understand exactly what they will do or how they will work.
It speaks of warning the locomotive engineer of obstacles or trapped vehicles at grade crossings.  It also says the system will provide warning to automobiles of oncoming trains by transmitting the warning to automobiles that will be displayed on standardized in-vehicle information displays. 
This is the first that I have seen a proposal to warn vehicles by an in-vehicle display.  Does this mean that every vehicle will have such a display device?  How will that come about?   I gather that the effect will be like having the grade crossing signal mounted in your car on the dashboard.   There will be no more need for quiet zones because the train horn will be in drivers’ vehicles rather than on the locomotive.
I have predicted just such an in-vehicle grade crossing signal here in the past as being one facet of the in-vehicle driver monitor connected to the traffic authority that turns every road into a toll road, and levies traffic violation fines as the driver commits them.
Also, I want to make it clear that, while I have advocated some new ideas in the past, I am not wishing for, or advocating any of this.
Also, nothing that I have ever read about this advance warning to trains of obstructions had been clear enough to understand whether this includes a warning to trains whenever an obstruction materializes—or—just warns of obstructions materializing after the crossings signals activate.  If is the latter, the warning seems generally too late.   
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Posted by tree68 on Friday, February 13, 2015 12:15 PM

Euclid
This is the first that I have seen a proposal to warn vehicles by an in-vehicle display.  Does this mean that every vehicle will have such a display device?  How will that come about?

The original proposals concerned emergency vehicles, not crossings, but it probably would not be a reach to include crossings in the capability.  

I have no information on the technical specs of such a system other than it would involve low power transmitters in emergency vehicles, and corresponding receivers in all other vehicles.  

Odds are it would take years to attain near 100% coverage as new vehicles replaced old.  I can't see it as a do-it-now mandate, and if it were, there would certainly be a lot of push-back, at least where crossings are concerned.  Emergency vehicles not so much, other than cost.

While millions of vehicles cross tracks virtually every day, millions more come no where near any tracks at all.

In addition to consumer vehicles, equipment would have to be installed at crossings - no cheap task.  The same would be true of emergency vehicles.

I don't think it's a bad idea - we could have used it this morning, when a jerk whose windshield had apparently frosted on the inside failed to note our fire truck behind him despite blaring siren and flashing lights.  But it's one more cost to be added to all factors involved.

It might have possibilities for blind intersections, too.

But I'm not holding my breath...

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Posted by oltmannd on Friday, February 13, 2015 12:32 PM

Euclid

 

 
oltmannd
 
Euclid
She was in an unusually heavy flow of congested traffic because it was being detoured over the crossing due to an accident on the nearby artery road.   Ordinarily, the crossing would have very light traffic.  

Read the USA article.  Yes, it was detour traffic, but the road through the cemetary is kind of a "sneaky back way". Normally, it would have no commuter traffic at all - it is just one of many access roads to the massive, Gate of Heaven cemetary.   It obviously didn't have  the entire flow of the Taconic Pkwy on it as the guy behind her said there was no one behind him, and he backed up quickly to give her room.

 

 

Don,
I did read the article and every other article that I have found since the accident.  Generally, they all refer to unusually heavy traffic due to the detour.  Some articles have said that the effect of this unusually high traffic flow will be looked at to see if it was a factor in the crash.
I have no idea what the traffic was on or near the crossing at the time of the accident.  However, without knowing otherwise, I assume that when the gate lowered on the vehicle, it was stopped.  And I assume that the reason it stopped was because the car ahead of it stopped because it was stop-and-go traffic.   I do not think that the driver simply stopped at the crossing for some other reason. 

 

 

The point is, for this to happen, it took a whole calamity of low probability errors - including the bizzare way the SUV caught the third rail and directed it into the car.  The likelihood of a similar repeat are so low that it'll swamp any possible technological remedy (NTSB not withstanding...they don't do cost/benefit)

The Harlem Line and surrounding roads have been in place, mostly unchanged since the late 1940s.  

The local population along the line has been fairly static.  

The only change has been some increase in the number and size of rush hour trains to accomodate growth further to the north (generally not served by the roads in the area of the crash).  This has been accompanied by improvements to highway crossings on the line. (none of the access roads to Gate of Heaven had gates prior to electrification, that I can recall)

The bottom line is that there is no "gee whiz" technological fix needed for this because the odds of it happening again are near zero.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

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Posted by jeffhergert on Friday, February 13, 2015 12:38 PM

Euclid
 
jeffhergert
 
Euclid
    
With the coming PTC, grade crossings will get smarter.  They will monitor road traffic, and if there is stop-and-go heavy congestion of traffic, the system will slow down or stop rail traffic. 
 

 

And you heard of this feature where?

 

 

 

I have heard about this feature in every description I have read about PTC.  Generally, it is described as a feature that will give advance warning to trains if a vehicle is obsructing a crossing ahead.  It would have saved some lives in the New York incident.
Quotes from the link:

Intelligent Grade Crossings

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is the application of new communications, computer, and sensor technologies to highways and transit systems and the careful integration of system functions to provide more efficient and effective solutions to multimodal transportation problems. [i.e.: highway traffic at grade crossings]

 

Highway-Rail Intersection (HRI) User Service #30
The ITS Architecture provides for the integration of the railroad operating systems with the traffic management systems and was developed…

The result is a system that would have the capability for getting advance warning of approaching trains through interconnected information systems that link the motorist to the traffic management and rail operations systems. It also allows for the capability of warning the locomotive engineer of obstacles or trapped vehicles at grade crossings, and potentially for trespassers along the right-of-way.

…These standards will be the basis for projects that will tie grade crossing warning systems to local traffic management systems and will include communication to the PTC systems now being developed to increase safety for both motor vehicle users and rail passengers and crewmembers.

 

 

 

Your link may no longer be active.  It gave me "page not found" on the FRA site.  Here's another link. http://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0309 

In reading the page.  It says it's capable of warning the engineer.  I don't really see where it says PTC will take action if an obstacle is detected at a crossing if the engineer doesn't. 

My reading of the page is that with PTC and "intellegent" grade crossings, PTC will communicate with the warning devices to give better notice of trains approaching the crossing.  Possibly not just to warning lights and gates, but to advisory displays to give more advance warning or alternative routes to avoid the crossing.  I'm thinking something like the countdown feature being added to stop lights or signs that say "Prepare to stop at light when flashing."  Something that give advance warning to road traffic that the grade crossing protection will start in X number of seconds/minutes.

Jeff

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Posted by Euclid on Friday, February 13, 2015 1:39 PM
To help make this clearer, here are the pertinent items extracted from the FRA document:
-------------------------------------------------------------
The result is a system that would have the capability for getting advance warning [to motorists] of approaching trains…
It also allows for the capability of warning the locomotive engineer of obstacles or trapped vehicles at grade crossings, and potentially for trespassers along the right-of-way.
For example, warning to motor vehicles of oncoming trains… transmitted… and displayed on standardized in-vehicle information displays…
----------------------------------------------
 
So it warns both motorists and trains.  It refers to the warning to vehicles as being an “advanced” warning, but it is not clear whether that just duplicates the 25-second crossing signal warning; or whether it would warn in advance of the start of the 25-second warning.  I am not sure why motorists would need more than the standard 25-second warning.  I cannot see what a driver do with the extra warning time.  Who is going to stop and wait for 2-3 minutes when they know all that is required is waiting 25 seconds?
It also warns engineers of obstructions on the crossing, but does not clarify how far in advance that warning would be, or what the engineer will be expected to do in response to the warning.
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Posted by tree68 on Friday, February 13, 2015 2:56 PM

Countdowns tend to be more dangerous than plain traffic lights - the drivers now know how much they have to rush to clear the intersection before the light changes.  It's bad enough with just the amber light.

One early design of traffic lights had both directions going to amber before going to red or green.  This lead to some interesting situations, as the driver trying to beat the light before it turned red oftimes collided with the driver who was trying to get a jump on the upcoming green light...

So it may well be if motorists are given more than the current warning time at crossings.  Nobody wants to get stuck waiting for a train, so if they get a longer warning, they're just going to floor it so they beat it, which brings problems of its own.

The ITS dedicated short-range communications system looks to be an interesting topic - the plan being near-constant communication between cars and between cars and the infrastructure, which obviously includes railroad crossings.  Range is limited - about 300 meters.

The concept has been in the works since at least the late 1990's.

 

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Posted by gardendance on Friday, February 13, 2015 5:14 PM

Can you call yourself a railfan and still say "Nobody wants to get stuck waiting for a train"?

Patrick Boylan

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Friday, February 13, 2015 5:30 PM

Question. Who has seen a grad crossing accident ?   How many of us have not seen a grade crossing accident but have noted close calls ?  This poster has seen more than one close call.  There does not appear to be any way to prevent drivers from trying to beat the train. 

Although very expensive the only good grade crossing is an extinct crossing. . 

 

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, February 13, 2015 5:52 PM

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

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Posted by tree68 on Friday, February 13, 2015 7:57 PM

gardendance

Can you call yourself a railfan and still say "Nobody wants to get stuck waiting for a train"?

Well, there are exceptions (present company included).  Stick out tongue

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Friday, February 13, 2015 8:00 PM

BaltACD

About 9 mins. long - maybe 15 different 'encounters'. 

Ought to be 'required watching' for those on this thread - some of those are pretty scary !

To paraphrase Justice Holmes: "Upon this point a video* is worth a volume of debate**."

Supreme Court of the U.S.; *="page of history", **="logic" in the original.

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Posted by Euclid on Saturday, February 14, 2015 8:12 AM
A lot of the news media buzz about this advance warning to trains seems to refer to a warning of a vehicle being trapped inside the gates.  Since the engineer is unlikely to be able to stop in time, why not have the trapped vehicle detection system simply raise the gates so the vehicle can escape?     
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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, February 14, 2015 9:15 AM

An accident report about one in Illinois that could have been much worse than the MNRR collidion.  NTSB recommended that crossing be eliminated. Afterwards many cars were observed getting trapped or at least stopping on tracks and fouling the tracks.   

 

http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/HAB0803.pdf

 

 

 

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Saturday, February 14, 2015 9:33 AM

NY Times article on ten worse crossings in the NY area.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/nyregion/at-rail-crossings-in-new-york-area-a-constantly-lurking-danger.html?emc=eta1&_r=1

 

Maybe it is time to install red light cameras at crossings ?  Of course the same complaints will occurr as now does about red light cameras.

 

 

 

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Posted by Paul_D_North_Jr on Saturday, February 14, 2015 9:54 AM

blue streak 1
An accident report about one in Illinois that could have been much worse than the MNRR collidion.  NTSB recommended that crossing be eliminated. Afterwards many cars were observed getting trapped or at least stopping on tracks and fouling the tracks.    

http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/HAB0803.pdf 

Thanks for sharing that - Highway Accident Brief HWY-06-MH-007, day before Thanksgiving 2005. 

It really should be cross-indexed as a Railroad Accident Brief, too. 

- Paul North. 

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Posted by Euclid on Saturday, February 14, 2015 10:08 AM

blue streak 1

An accident report about one in Illinois that could have been much worse than the MNRR collidion.  Afterwards many cars were observed getting trapped or at least stopping on tracks and fouling the tracks.   

http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/HAB0803.pdf

 

And the great danger of all of this traffic queue and related signal interrelationship rigmarole is ultimately governed by the little sign with the flawed message, “DO NOT STOP ON TRACKS.”

 

Here is a sign that I found in use in this video:

 

Apparently the authorities recognized the ambiguity of the “DO NOT STOP ON TRACKS” sign, and came up with something that actually says what it means:

 

DO NOT PROCEED

 

UNTIL INTERSECTION

 

IS CLEAR

 

 Note the similarity to this one that I suggested earlier:

 

In Slow Road Traffic—

 

Wait Here Until Clear to Pass

 

Completely Through Crossing

 

 

 

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Posted by rdamon on Saturday, February 14, 2015 10:40 AM
There was no sign in the direction that she was travelling..

https://goo.gl/maps/OMrhp

 

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Posted by Norm48327 on Saturday, February 14, 2015 10:56 AM

rdamon
There was no sign in the direction that she was travelling..

https://goo.gl/maps/OMrhp

 

 

So, we need a sign to tell one what should be common sense? Huh?

Norm


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