When a railroad crossing gate failed to lower in time and a police car had to swerve at the last second to avoid being struck by an oncoming suburban train, reporter Chris Hush of NBC 5 Chicago reached out to railroad engineering expert Augustine Ubaldi P.E. for comment.
Source: NBC 5 Chicago
Anchor #1: Now to a dangerously close call with a Metra train that was caught on camera. The dashcam video shows a suburban police officer swerving at the last second to avoid being hit after the crossing gates failed to come down in time. The question now is why. NBC5’s Chris Hush has new information.
Chris: This is what it’s supposed to look like when a Metra train travels through a railroad crossing. Lights flashing, bells ringing, gates down. But a Mokena police officer, seen here driving down 191st Street last month, had a completely different experience. With no warning, a Metra train comes out of the left-hand side. The officer swerves left and jumps a curb to get out of the way. It isn’t until the train is about halfway through, the crossing gates finally begin to lower. You can only imagine the alternate ending.
Bystander #1: Never would expect something like that, ever.
Chris: Metra tells me the train was going 52 miles per hour when it crossed through this intersection. When the conductor noticed that the crossing gates never came down, he pushed the emergency brake. But that was already after the train had just barely missed several cars.
Gus Ubaldi, P.E.: The gates are supposed to fail-safe. The gates did sense a train coming, but they were running slow. So the question is why.
Chris: Metra says the signal system is designed to fail-safe with the crossing gates down, but a short in the equipment caused the system to think a train was sitting on the tracks. The gates eventually timed out and went up, and didn’t have enough time to go back down before the train moved through the crossing.
Gus Ubaldi, P.E.: You are supposed to get a minimum of 20 seconds of warning before a train arrives at a crossing.
Chris: Metra is urging the public to report crossing gate malfunctions using the number on these blue signs. For now, some drivers who cross these tracks daily say they’re taking a new approach.
Bystander #2: I’ve definitely taken a second look from just anytime I cross tracks nowadays.
Bystander #1: I’m always going to look both ways now. And now you know you can’t just depend on that. You’ve got to depend on your own self-awareness.
Chris: Chris Hush, NBC5 News.
Anchor #2: Wow, that’s a good warning for all.
The railroad experts at Robson Forensic bring decades of experience in railroad engineering from the perspectives of both designer and user. As construction engineers and maintenance-of-way supervisors, our experts are uniquely qualified to provide accurate and realistic assessments of planning, design, construction, and inspection of railroads.
For more information, submit an inquiry or visit our railroad engineering practice page.