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Mother of girl killed by train starting petition

By: Andy Cunningham Email
By: Andy Cunningham Email

Sophia Ammons, 19, died in October when a train hit her SUV at a railroad crossing in Mercer County.

Her mother, Jill Ammons, wants changes at that crossing and she wants other folks to 'sign up' to help her cause.

For Christmas, her sister, with the help of an attorney, put together a petition. Its purpose is to urge the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to improve safety at the rail crossing where Sophia died on Bohon Road and at other dangerous crossings around Kentucky.

"This is a fight I'm not willing to give up on, and this petition will help to further my fight," Jill Ammons said.

She plans to distribute the petition to businesses in Mercer County and beyond.

"I hope to gather as many signatures as possible, we want to make a really strong case," she said.

The crossing where her daughter was killed has warning lights, but not crossing arms.

"If there would have been crossing arms across the railroad, she would have seen those," she said.

In her opinion if crossing arms had been in place, Sophia would still be alive today.

"In my opinion yes," she said. "This isn't about personal gain, we want to create awareness and improve safety for everyone in our community here."

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is responsible for making improvements to rail crossings. Their formula includes accident history, sight distance and whether obstructions are present, like, trees, buildings, signs or a curve in the road.

The rail company installs the safety measures and is paid annual fee to maintain each. Payments are from KYTC maintenance fund.

In the six-year period from July 2005 to June 2011, Kentucky received $6 million to install or update safety measures. Each crossing can cost from $200,000 to $500,000 depending on what measures (i.e. gates, lights, signs) are being installed.

Breakdown of KY crossings: (from KYTC)

There are 3,224 public crossings. Of those ...
· 894 are grade separated (railroad is below or above the road i.e. bridge, tunnel or overpass)
· 2,330 are at-grade crossings
· 22 are grade separated pedestrian crossings
· 47 are at-grade pedestrian crossings
There are 1,171 active, public at-grade crossings. Of those ...
· 452 have crossing ages, flashing lights and bells
· 619 have only lights and bells
· 72 have only lights
· 28 are manually flagged (train stops and someone gets out)

There are 1,112 passive, at-grade crossings, which have signage, cross bucks, and stop signs, 238 have no warning.
Seven people including, Sophia Ammons, have been killed at rail crossings in Kentucky this year.

"I will never give up, ever," Ammons said. "If I have to spend every dime I have and physically put up the crossing arms myself, I will."

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