Railroad News

Austin Capital Metro Claims Deadly Crossings Safe, but will Fix Anyway

(Austin, Texas – August 13, 2012)

The vice president of rail operations of the Austin, TX Capital Metro railroad commuter passenger system said today, as the entity’s board of directors released a study of all its private at-grade crossings in response to a deadly April 30 accident in which a 32-year-old father was killed and his two young sons seriously injured, that all 14 crossings included in the study are safe.

“They have a stop sign,” said VPRO Melvin Clark. “We take care of making sure, at least on our part at the property line, that the vegetation is clear. The engineers go through there every day. They tell us when they notice anomalies,” he continued in addressing the Board.

“I see no safety concerns concerning the ballast surface. We have that at several of our private crossings outside the commuter corridor and certainly they’re on other systems across the country,” Clark explained.

Yet, the crossing where Jeremy Barta died and his children were injured has received a complete resurfacing since the tragedy, changing the once-gravel ballast crossing surface to a concrete paneled one and scheduling the crossing for the installation of flashing lights in 2014.

In fact, Capital Metro expects to upgrade the other 13 crossings with concrete crossing surface panels and flashing lights by 2018 at a total cost of $997,500.

The victim’s friends and neighbors are not impressed by Capital Metro’s explanation and eventual upgrades, however.

Scott Eason, with whom the Barta family lived, recalls that “I predicted someone would die (at that crossing). I never thought it’d be someone I know,” lamenting that the problem was the crossing itself, its rough surface and lack of protective signals.

But in typical railroad management fashion, Clark said that the driving public needs to take more care. “We’re depending on the motorist to obey the rules – to stop, look, listen, yield to the train.”