Highway/Railroad Accident Report - Collision of Metrolink Commuter Train and Stake Bed Truck

Burbank, California
January 6, 2003

NTSB Number: HAR-03-04
NTIS Number: PB2003-916204
Adopted December 2, 2003
PDF

Executive Summary

On January 6, 2003, about 9:30 a.m. Pacific standard time, eastbound Metrolink commuter train 210 struck a Ford F-550 crew cab, stake bed truck at the North Buena Vista Street grade crossing in Burbank, California. Upon impact, the truck's fuel tank was compromised, releasing fuel and resulting in a postcrash fire that consumed the stake bed, which remained at the crossing, while the truck's cab, which was not on fire, continued eastward with the train. The train derailed and came to a stop about 1,300 feet east of the crossing. The cab and second cars of the train came to rest on their sides; the remaining two cars and the locomotive remained upright. The truckdriver was fatally injured. Of the train's 59 passengers and 2 crewmembers, 32 sustained injuries; 1 passenger, who was treated and then released from a local hospital, died 15 days later from internal injuries that were probably sustained during the accident.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the design of the traffic signals' railroad hold interval, which displayed a flashing red arrow for the eastbound North San Fernando Boulevard left turn lane, improperly implying that, after stopping, the truckdriver was permitted to make a left turn onto North Buena Vista Street. Contributing to the accident was the lack of a raised median at the crossing that would have obstructed the path used by the truckdriver to make the left turn.

The major safety issues discussed in this report are the use of "all-red-flash" railroad hold intervals at signalized highway-rail grade crossings and adherence to applicable engineering guidance in designing traffic signals and other safety features at grade crossings.

As a result of its investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration; the California Department of Transportation; the city of Burbank, California; the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; the Institute of Transportation Engineers; the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices; the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances; and the Transportation Research Board.

Recommendations

To the California Department of Transportation:

Prohibit the all-red-flash option for traffic signal indications during the railroad hold interval at grade crossings. (H-03-28)

To the city of Burbank, California:

Install a raised median or other barrier system at the North San Fernando Boulevard-North Buena Vista Street grade crossing that extends from the crossing to the end of the double yellow centerlines south of the tracks. (H-03-29)

To the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances:

Limit the use of highway traffic signals in the all-red-flash mode to situations in which they permit motorists to stop and proceed with caution. (H-03-30)

To the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices:

Incorporate into chapter 1 of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, at the time of each update, a list of references, including Internet Web sites, for traffic and safety engineering design guidelines. (H-03-31)

To the Federal Highway Administration, the American Association of State High-way and Transportation Officials, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and the Transportation Research Board:

Improve the ease with which transportation and civil engineers can locate and obtain safety design guidelines and related information on Internet Web sites, as well as through other means, and make available to governmental entities a no-cost option for obtaining critical safety design guidelines. (H-03-32)