Railroad gates malfunction

Published 4:02 pm Monday, September 3, 2012

A train rolls through the crossing at the entrance to the Olde Mill Creek subdivision with the gates up on Saturday. It was one of several instances of the crossing gates malfunctioning in the last few weeks, a nearby resident says.

A repair crew is expected to be on the scene Tuesday to fix a malfunctioning railroad crossing gate at the entrance to the Olde Mill Creek neighborhood.

During the last three weeks, the gate has malfunctioned several times, according to Brooke Schaab, who lives in the neighborhood off Wilroy Road. Sometimes, the gate goes down and stays down when there isn’t a train coming. Other times, a train blasts through the intersection without the gate going down at all.

Both situations are dangerous, Schaab said. With the gate stuck down, cars were weaving between the gates and risking being struck if a train did happen to come by, she said.

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“School is starting, and there will be school buses coming by,” Schaab said. “I’m disturbed. You’d probably be better off without a gate — then people would know to stop and look. It’s a very dangerous situation.”

Schaab said the gates are working intermittently, so repair crews think the problem is fixed.

Police officers have responded to the crossing when the gates are stuck down to direct traffic around the gates, which is “wasting city resources,” Schaab said.

After she sent an email to city, state and railroad officials on Saturday, Bill Jasper with the Genesee & Wyoming railroad responded to say a crew would arrive Tuesday afternoon to upgrade the equipment.

“They have assured me that this should take care of the issues,” Jasper wrote.

The Olde Mill Creek Homeowners’ Association has offered to pay for the cost of a second set of gates, which would help prevent a tragedy if one set malfunctioned, said Schaab, who is on the association’s board of directors. It also would mean the crossing would be more likely to be designated a quiet zone, which would mean the trains wouldn’t blow the whistle when they came through the intersection.

Last year, neighbors in the community presented a petition to City Council for support to designate the crossing a quiet zone. The city, in turn, wrote to the railroad to seek support but had not applied for a quiet zone at that crossing as of March, according to a letter from Senator Mark Warner’s office to Schaab.

A study by an outside consultant hired by the city found that the needed improvements at the Olde Mill Creek crossing would cost about $50,000.

Meanwhile, the community is bleeding residents. Schaab is in the process of purchasing a house in another city and said she is making the move solely to get a good night’s sleep. Only one house sits between hers and the tracks.

“I really don’t want to move,” she said. “I wouldn’t even consider it if it wasn’t for that train.”