Fatal Accident Crossing Had Little Safety Equipment
By Era Sundar
Austin’s public transit agency is explaining its safety policies after a man was killed yesterday; a MetroRail train crashed into his car at a private rail crossing. Two children were hurt in the collision.
Capital Metro says all of its trains have bells and horns, which are a lot louder than the bells. Trains are required to sound their horns at most public crossings. But Cap Metro spokeswoman Erica McKewen says that’s not always the case at private crossings.
“A train engineer will always sound the bell,” McKewen said. “And although there isn’t a requirement at the private crossing to sound the horn, the train engineer at his or her discretion may always sound the horn if needed.”
In Austin there are 13 private railroad crossings on the MetroRail route. Only two of them have flashing lights and gates.
McKewen says the safety measures differ from crossing to crossing because Capital Metro has separate agreements with each owner.
“Some of the private crossings actually have gates and warning alarm bells and the flashing lights,” she said. “Others have a stop sign and the railroad crossing — what we call a crossbuck, which is the circle with the crossing arms underneath it.”
The Federal Railroad Administration says lights and gates reduce collisions, but they do not prevent them completely. Nationwide, about half of collisions at rail crossings happen where such safety equipment is present and operating correctly.
The crossing where yesterday’s accident happened did not have lights or a gate.