Railroad News

Connecticut Crossing Where Two Died Had Been Authorized for Gates Three Years Ago

(Redding, Connecticut – January 5, 2013)

The Long Ridge Road/Metro North railroad crossing where two people died and two others remain hospitalized after a December 30, 2012 accident near the West Redding passenger station had been OK’ed for the addition of crossing gates in 2009, but bureaucracy and lack of inter-agency communication have now delayed the project – which a story in the New Milford Spectrum contends “could have been averted had crossing gates been in place” – for what will be five years before it supposedly will come to pass in 2014.

In a Saturday story, Spectrum Staff Writer Libor Jany wrote that “according to investigators, the gray Subaru Outback (in which all four victims were) crossed the tracks on Long Ridge Road as the train reached the crossing. It’s unclear whether the driver, 19-year-old Jausheema Perkins, ever saw the oncoming locomotive or had time to react before it slammed into the car, crumpling the roof and shattering its windows.”

Perkins’ boyfriend, Wayne Balacky, 21, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Danbury Hospital after both he and Jausheema had to be extricated from the crushed vehicle. She died of her injuries Friday at Yale-New Haven Hospital, while her two other passengers, Fakeem Morning, 19, and James Redmond, 21, remain hospitalized at Westchester Medical Center in critical condition. All four occupants were from Danbury, CT.

And while railroad and state authorities debate whether signal re-design, roadwork, relocation or bureaucratic consternation have delayed the addition of crossing gates, the Spectrum article contended that “While funding for the modernization plan was apparently dispersed in 2009, officials last week did not shed light on why the project hasn’t gotten off the ground since then.”  

As agency spokespersons offered their various excuses for inaction on a project that may have contributed to the loss of two lives and the serious endangerment of two more, two Connecticut state legislators are taking action to get answers and activity before another tragedy occurs. State Senators Mike McLachen of Danbury, and Toni Boucher of Wilton, both Republicans and members of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, addressed a letter this week to both Connecticut DOT James Redecker and Metro-North President Howard Permut, stating “In order to make sure these improvements are made as soon as possible, we would like to set up a meeting with you or your representatives. We want to make sure what happened Dec. 30 does not happen again!”

While Metro-North spokesperson Marjorie Anders would not provide the news writer a timetable for completion of the project, including the crossing gates, Redding First Selectman Natalie Ketcham noted that such projects take time.

“I do know, specifically, that the main project that the DOT has had on the drawing board for quite some time involves some significant drainage issues,” noted Ketcham. “If they thought they were going to have to put the gates in and next year come back because they’re redesigning the roads, that wouldn’t make sense.”

But then, how do two deaths and two serious injuries resultant from an accident that could possibly have been prevented, make sense, either?