(Stamford, Connecticut – August 26, 2013)
A semi-private grade crossing of Metro-North Railroad tracks leading into and out of a busy commercial complex in Stamford, CT has once again been the site of a serious highway vehicle/train injury accident, with the public assessing blame due to its lack of railroad crossing gates.
The Monday morning collision between a Metro North commuter passenger train, one of four dozen that cross there daily, at the intersection of River Bend Road South and Metro North railroad tracks, which is equipped with flashing lights but lacks the crossing gates needed to better secure the protective factor for the occupants and drivers of highway vehicles, once again ignited critics who live and work there and cross those tracks on a regular basis and who have demanded safety device improvements.
The victim this time – number eight, resultant from a total of 10 collisions – was 19-year-old Drew Choos of Darien, CT, who was taken to Stamford Hospital with what was described as a “shoulder injury”. Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Lt. Joe Esposito said the victim told responding firefighters that he never saw any flashing lights, and that the train was already on top of him as he drove his Jeep across the MTA/MN tracks, only to be struck by the train on the left rear of his vehicle, spinning it 180 degrees.
Stamford resident Will Brown, who has lived next to the crossing for two decades, during which time he has seen six car/train collisions, was livid. “How many times?” he asked. “Why can’t we have the gates? I heard it costs too much money. How many times is it going to be on the evening news?” Brown asked Connecticut Post reporters. “I’m tired of getting my name into the paper for this. It is lives that we’re talking about!” he concluded.
The news media described the crossing as “unprotected”; however, in its present condition, a more descriptive term might be “inadequately, improperly or insufficiently equipped”.
Another critic, David Pelletierre, told reporters he has lived in the neighborhood eight years, during which time he has seen eight collisions. “They need to put up the gates,” Pelletierre commented as he watched emergency responders place the latest victim into an ambulance. “Whatever they are doing to make it safe isn’t working,” he observed.
The five-crossing corridor which carries Metropolitan Transit Authority trains through Stamford consists of two public crossings – both fully signalized and equipped with an extensive crossing gate system – and three semi-private crossings serving the large commercial district. One of the crossings, Miller’s Crossing, experienced 15 accidents injuring 16 people before gates were added to existing lights in 1997. Since the 16 years following the safety improvement, there have been two non-injury collisions.
Metro North Spokeswoman Marjorie Anders told reporters that the railroad had received a letter last week from the Connecticut Dept. of Transportation asking that MTA/MN prepare a detailed cost estimate for the installation of gates by Sept. 18.