Monday, June 27, 2011

Railroad Crossing- Look out for the cars...

Right near here is an intersection that has recently had some problems. It is an intersection of a highway for personal vehicles and a railway- commonly called a railroad crossing, although I don't see why the railroad gets exclusive billing. (It was also, in times past, the exact location of a border between two states so that neither state would take responsibility for the road at the crossing, but would pass the blame to the other state or to the railroad.)

Railroads had some pretty hard times right around the time the era of The State ended. Subsidies and government contracts were apparently pretty addictive, and doing without them was just about fatal. Yet, time (and liberty) healed the hurt and got rid of the chaff, and railroads soon came back healthier than they had ever been.

As with the crossing, though, sometimes residue and mistakes from the past era still crop up to haunt us.

While the railroads were "on hiatus" the intersection wasn't a problem. The new owners of the road (local residents and business owners) simply ignored the crossing while keeping the road in repair. The crossing was pretty easy to ignore. After all, the railroad's part of the crossing was the best-maintained component all along, even before Libertopia.

When railroads began to run again, they reached an agreement with the road's owners that allowed them to use the intersection for a fee. It was occasionally annoying, but nothing major enough to get worked up over. But recently the train traffic has increased to the point where there were significant delays many times a day as a train passed. And by "many times a day" I am talking about 150 to 300 trains per day. There was no way to avoid the intersection. The road's customers began to complain with good reason. Not only were the delays becoming inconvenient (and wasteful of time), but they were becoming dangerous. The nearest hospital is on the other side of the tracks and in an emergency a delay, or worse, a stopped train, could mean the difference between life and death.

A solution had to be found.

And it was. What eventually happened was the the road owners allowed the railroad to stop paying rent for use of the intersection for a time and put that savings into the construction of an elevated track to go over the road in that area. There was also significant fund-raising and business sponsorship to pay the expenses.

Everyone came out ahead, since the railroad owners would have been held personally liable had a crossing incident resulted in harm or death. The local businesses don't have to worry about a highway bridge resulting in customers being funneled past their doors. And local residents near the tracks don't have to listen to the crossing arms clanging, and the train whistles blowing, all hours of the day and night.

People wonder why this wasn't done sooner. I suspect that had this solution not been implemented, someone would have built a competing road with a bridge before too long (it has happened in other places), but I believe the solution which was found was the best one for this location and benefited everyone the most. As with all things in Libertopia, one size does not fit all and different solutions present themselves in different places and in slightly different circumstances. It is very liberating to not have solutions dictated from afar by clueless paper-pushers.


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