The last two ground-level railroad crossings on the Amtrak corridor between Washington and New Haven, Conn., have been closed near Bowie. Amtrak officials said the action was part of their efforts to enable increased train speeds and to prevent accidents at crossings.
Despite the closing, however, a Glenn Dale girl was killed at the Hillmeade Road crossing Sunday evening when she walked her bike around the barricades and into the path of The Montrealer, which was going 110 miles an hour, Prince George's County police reported. Traffic on the road crossings there and at Glenn Dale Road was rerouted several weeks ago to a new bridge over the tracks.
A year ago, a Greenbelt man wearing headphones was fatally struck by an Amtrak train at the same spot after he rode a bicycle around a lowered gate and failed to hear a train whistle.
Amtrak spokesman Arthur Lloyd said this week that the latest victim was pushing her bike over the tracks when the Montreal-bound train hit. He said the engineer "had no chance" to avoid hitting her.
Closing of all grade-level crossings is part of the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project begun by Amtrak in 1976. Ground-level crossings are still open at the northern end of the line between New Haven and Boston, railway officials said.
Amtrak spokesman Clifford Black said closing of the crossings was a priority because the track is heavily traveled. He said 65 to 75 trains per day run on the tracks that cross Glenn Dale and Hillmeade roads.
Black said that the trains can travel faster than 100 miles per hour but that most slow down to 80 when passing a grade crossing.
Nearby residents agree with Amtrak officials that the closings are needed for safety.
"We grew up knowing that you got out of the way for trains because the trains didn't get out of the way for you," said Ruth Harvey, 72, who has lived in the Glenn Dale community for 70 years and said she grew up "a few steps" from the crossing there. "But I know it has to be done now that we have these high-speed trains," she said.