A motorist blocked the light-rail tracks Tuesday afternoon in downtown Minneapolis. Photo by Paul Walsh
About every three hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train the U.S. Department of Transportation says, and that's why Hopkins Police will be conducting a railroad crossing safety effort on Wednesday.
Over the past year, train crews in the west metro suburb have reported issues with drivers stopping on the tracks and or too close to the tracks and motorists driving around stop arms, said Sgt. Mike Glassberg.
"We have had two collisions at one of our crossings in the last two years, and a number of near misses," Glassberg said.
On Wednesday, Twin City Western Railroad, CP Rail Police and Hopkins Police will conduct a crossing enforcement detail from 3 to 6 p.m. at the intersection of Excelsior Boulevard and Jackson Avenue, a confusing intersection near the Cargill headquarters where a number of incidents have occurred and motorists have been spotted stopping on the tracks or in the wrong place.
"It's a rough intersection. That is why people have been hit," Glassberg said. "We will be stopping drivers and likely educating them more than citing them, unless their violations are serious or reckless."
The overarching goal, however, is to create awareness about how dangerous railroad crossings can be, he said.
Last year, 232 people were fatally injured in rail crossing accidents, according to the US DOT. This year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) launched a two-year effort to reduce accidents and fatalities at railroad crossings and advise motorists to use caution when approaching crossings.
The campaign called “Stop! Trains Can’t” reminds drivers that trains cannot swerve, stop quickly or change directions to avert collisions. a freight train traveling at 55 miles per hour takes a mile to stop once the emergency brakes are applied, the DOT said.
By law, trains have the right of way. The campaign also reminds drivers to:
• Slow down, look both ways and listen
• Not enter the crossing unless they can make it completely across
• Never race a train
• Never stop on tracks
“Education is key here – sometimes a driver is distracted, or in an unfamiliar area. Other times, the state highway department has not done enough to warn drivers they are approaching a crossing,” said FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “We must do everything we can to give drivers the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe, and this helps us do just that."