CHAPEL HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) — A tragic triple fatality crash with a train is drawing awareness to an ongoing concern in Chapel Hill.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol says three family members who were 22, 26 and 29 years old were driving on Depot Street when their car was hit by the train Saturday afternoon.

Neighbors say it’s a dangerous area that needs crossing gates or a stop light.

“There’s no red light or nothing there at all,” Brett Stallcup told News 2. 

It’s a narrow steep incline to go over the tracks, marked with railroad crossing signs and stop signs, but residents say that’s not enough.

“There’s no rails, nothing that even tells you the trains coming unless you hear the horn,” said Stallcup.

There are also not a lot of options for drivers on the stretch of the roadway where the crash occurred. There’s an overpass that crosses the railroad tracks and there’s an underpass and both routes are one-way, making it a dangerous area for drivers.

Stallcup, who drives the street regularly, says most locals know what to do, honk and proceed with caution whether you are going under the tracks or over.

“Both sides have to honk because one way you can’t even see when there’s a car coming. So a few times, several times someone’s got to back up,” he explained.

City leaders say it’s a trouble spot that’s been talked about for years.

“In light of things like this, the question is starting to be asked again,” Danny Bingham Town Administrator told News 2.

He says they’ve considered straightening the road, installing a light signal or putting in crossing gates as options before.

“It comes down to budgets and some things along that line, getting cooperation from locals, residents in the area, but also working with roads crews and CSX partnering with us,” Bingham explained. 

CSX officials told News 2 that the responsibility to alert drivers falls on state agencies.

“It’s tragic that a loss of life has to bring something like this to light and after the completed investigation is done we will sit down and say ok what are our options here,” Bingham explained.

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A Gofundme account organized by a man who claims to be the driver’s boyfriend says the victims — Duvraska Milena and her two brothers — were born in Venezuela. The page says they are raising money to bring the siblings’ mother from Venezuela to Nashville so she can say goodbye to her children and take care of any legal procedures, as well as handle funeral expenses.

CSX released the below statement to News 2:

CSX extends its deepest sympathies to everyone impacted by the tragic incident in Lewisburg, TN. At CSX, safety is our highest priority and we want everyone to return home at the end of each day, whether they work for us or live in the communities where we operate.

Determinations about the need and type of traffic control devices required to alert drivers to the presence of railroad tracks and to the possibility of an approaching train at highway-rail grade crossings are the responsibility of state agencies. The state of Tennessee regularly reviews at-grade crossings and safety evaluations of at-grade crossings. For more information about the state’s consideration of the highway-rail grade crossing in Lewisburg, we encourage you to contact the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

CSX urges motorists and pedestrians to approach all highway-rail grade crossings with caution and to look and listen for train traffic at all times when crossing the tracks.

CSX spokesperson

News 2 reached out to TDOT and received the following statement:

Depot Street is under the jurisdiction of the city of Chapel Hill. In regard to responsibility at public railroad crossings, it is recognized that crossings are situated on right-of-way available for joint use of both highway traffic and railroad traffic. 

The agency with roadway jurisdiction (in this case, the City of Chapel Hill) jointly determines with the railroad company (CSX) the need and selection of devices at a grade crossing. The selection of traffic control devices is subject to engineering review and should be consistent with the Standards in the current edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) as published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The TDOT Section 130 Program will soon be reaching out to Chapel Hill and CSX to discuss conducting an engineering study of potential safety improvements for this railroad crossing.  Such projects often take over a year for construction to begin.

Rebekah Hammonds — TDOT Region 3 Community Relations Officer