Drivers worry about train crossings in Bethel - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va


Drivers worry about train crossings in Bethel

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Drivers voiced concerns about railroad crossing signals in Bethel. (WFSB photo) Drivers voiced concerns about railroad crossing signals in Bethel. (WFSB photo)

People in Bethel said they've been pushing to get train warning signals fixed at two busy downtown intersections.

Monday, they said they were worried it fell too low on the state Department of Transportation's priority list.

Some told Eyewitness News that they've seen trains come at them as they're driving over the tracks. It's a problem they said has been happening for the past couple of months.

The warning signals that alert drivers to stop before the crossings have been malfunctioning. Although transportation officials said they were taking precautions to make sure drivers were safe, people in town said they weren't convinced.

"We want it fixed right away," said First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker.

Knickerbocker met with Eyewitness News just after cameras caught a train roll through.

Cars zipped across the busy intersection and Knickerbocker said those drivers may not see a train coming until it's already approaching the intersection.

"It scares people to see a monstrous train roll right up to the intersection," he said.

Transportation officials said conductors stop before passing through the crossing, but the moment before can be terrifying for drivers scrambling to get across.

Many drivers told Eyewitness News about their close calls.

"A couple of times I've noticed some cars as the gates were coming down that they're squeaking underneath it," said Rich Fisher of Bethel.

"It's a very, very busy intersection, and because of the tracks and the light after the tracks, everything backs up," said Don Bullock, also a Bethel resident.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority and DOT crews were working together to find a solution.

Erich Kunst from the DOT said there is no threat to the public.

"The railroad calls for the trains in the territory to stop at all crossings to ensure that the gates are down before they proceed through," he said. "If the gates are not down for one reason or another, a conductor gets off the train, conducts traffic, and protects the public and they proceed slowly."

Kunst could not say when the recently upgraded train signals would be working again.

"It's not due to the fault of the railroad," he explained. "It's because of the conditions out here, the heavy rain and snow."

Knickerbocker hoped this issue became an immediate priority for transportation officials. The MTA was highly criticized after two major derailments and a power outage in recent months.

The Metro-North recently released a 100-day plan to restore safety to the railroad, but confidence will take longer to restore, Knockerbocker said.

"I haven't seen that this is a part of the new 100 day plan," he said. "They're kind of worried about big things. But we think this is kind of a big thing for us, too."

The MTA said a temporary train schedule is in effect for the Danbury branch while the problem persists. It cut down on the number of trains that roll through Bethel's downtown area.

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