Boro wants Conrail to fix false alarms at crossings


SPOTSWOOD — The warning lights at the railroad tracks are flashing, but no train is coming. According to Borough Council President Curtis Stollen, that has become an alltoo common situation on roadways in town.

Conrail tracks run across several welltraveled roads in Spotswood. When the blinking lights and sounding bells at the crossings go off, motorists must stop to see if a train is coming, but Stollen said that in recent months there have been many cases where the signals are going off for lengths of time with no train coming. This causes traffic to back up on roads such as Summerhill Road near the municipal offices.

Stollen said Conrail has been slow to respond to calls about malfunctioning signals. Stollen said he lives near one of the areas where false alarms are prevalent, and said the lights and bells have at times gone on for hours.

“There were three or four nights this summerwhere it rang all night as you were trying to sleep,” Stollen said. “It used to happen occasionally, but now it happens a lot and not just in my area.”

Stollen said he wants the borough to record statistics showing how many times false alarms go off. He also said he knows his neighbors are very upset about the noise

False alarms aren’t just a nuisance; they present a danger because people may start to disregard the railroad signals, believing they are malfunctioning, Stollen noted. This could lead to a disaster should a train actually be coming.

The borough and Conrail have had a rocky relationship in recent years. Local officials had long sought to have Conrail clean up a small area of its property off Main Street near the East Brunswick border, and officials were outraged when Conrail indicated it would not allow the town to beautify the area without first agreeing to a paid lease. Conrail initially offered to lease Spotswood the land for $1,200 a year, but officials negotiated and last year agreed on $600.

Regarding the railroad crossings, Stollen said Conrail has been called when the signals malfunction, but the company has been slow to respond.

“You can call them at 8 p.m. at night, and [the warning bells] still ring at 1 a.m.,” he said. Conrail’s calls are fielded by someone from out of the area, according to Stollen. “They say they will dispatch someone to repair it,” he said. The repairs are done, but not quickly enough, and they don’t seem to last, he said.

The borough has only two police vehicles on the road at a given time, so it would be difficult to station one at a railroad crossing every time there is an ongoing false alarm, he said. Conrail’s press office did not return a call seeking comment for this story.