(sound of railroad horn)
The railroad crossing at Highway 290 and West Road is bustling with vehicles large and small. Motorists behind the wheel seem to be in a hurry to get to where they need to be. Sam Stephenson is manager for public safety for Union Pacific Railroad. He says this crossing is one of the company’s busiest.
“This particular line here runs from down the central part of Houston all the way to Navasota, which is about a 65-mile line. This particular segment, about a seven mile segment, accounts for 36-percent of the collisions that we’ve had on this line since 2002.”
Even with the media present, Stephenson says some motorists still ignore the rail road warnings.
“As a matter of fact, I saw this one gentleman hit the gas pedal at the last second to try and beat the train as the gate was already coming down. He actually had to swerve out to avoid getting hit by that gate.”
“It’s exciting, I mean, you’ve got a lot of tonnage along the freight train and you’re moving pretty good.”
He says he doesn’t understand why some motorists take the risk of driving around a crossing arm that is down.
“There’s times out here when you’re not sure if they’re going to get out of the way, but most time, you know they’re out of the way. If we do see people that are stopping on the tracks or going around the gates, and we can get their license plate number, we do have cards that we can fill out and send it in, and it will go to the proper authorities, and they’ll notify them.”
Back outside at the rail road crossing…motorists were being stopped by UP workers.
UP worker: “Hey buddy…raising awareness about crossing safety.”
motorist: “Very good…I appreciate it.”
UP worker: “Stay aware, buddy.”
Hernandez: “As a rule, do you stop when the arm goes down?”
motorist: “Oh, heck yeah! Yes sir, yes sir, I have to. My aunt had a horrible accident years ago. Oh, no. When I start seeing that thing go down, stop. Stop, stop stop.”
Public safety awareness train rides are part of Union Pacific Railroad’s efforts to help educate motorists about grade crossing and pedestrian safety to end tragic collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and railroad rights of way.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.