Skip to Main Content
Railroad News

Deadly Crossing Scheduled to Get Lights, Gates Sometime in the Future

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Lawrence, Kansas – September 3, 2012)

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway crossing of East 950 Road in Douglas County, KS, near Lecompton, KS, where a 22-year-old motorist was killed by a BNSF freight train on February 4, 2011 – 17 months ago – now has the promise of an active protective system, even though such is still plenty of paperwork and probably still over a year away.

Under the yet-to-be-finalized agreement, the crossing where Kyle Snyder was killed when his northbound pickup collided with an eastbound BNSF freight train, will receive safety improvements, with the Kansas Dept. of Transportation providing 80% of the funding for lights, bells and gates, while BNSF picks up the remaining 20% of the estimated $250,000 cost.

The crossing, which also lies at the bottom of a steep decline of Douglas County East 950 Road from its crest to the railroad tracks, has been “protected” for years by standard, passive railroad crossbuck signs, deemed sufficient protection from what the Federal Railroad Administration says is a daily average of seven trains, including Amtrak passenger trains, that cross there at a maximum allowable speed of 79 mph. Both FRA and KDOT estimates agree that there are less than 40 highway vehicles using the crossing daily, but this figure includes school buses on occasion.

Although officials say that icy and snow packed conditions were contributing factors to the 2011 tragedy, Tom Snyder, the victim’s father who, along with his wife, Laury, Kyle’s mother, have battled for safety additions at the crossing, says that the main safety improvement will be the flashing lights, giving motorists a warning of an approaching train before they begin descending the grade that leads to the railroad tracks. Snyder also feels the crossing should be closed during inclement winter weather conditions, such as were the case when his son was killed, saying “A school bus cannot be traveling down that hill.”

KDOT Coordinating Engineer Mitch Smothers agrees, saying that the signal “will improve safety. It will give people on their approaches advanced warning of a train.”

But the safety improvement factor is nowhere near imminent, as once the paperwork is complete and the agreement is actually signed by both KDOT and BNSF, the railroad will still have a year – 12 more months – to complete the installation of the gates, bells and lights. Meanwhile, the usual railroad ambiguity is displayed as BNSF spokesman Joe Faust, while admitting to having no familiarity with the crossing, maintains the rhetoric by telling the Lawrence Journal-World that “state and local officials make the call on the level of protection needed at a railroad crossing”, adding that “BNSF would be responsible for installing and maintaining the equipment going forward.”


Railroad News


Train crash cases are unique and complex with many different potential pitfalls, such as federal preemption. Anytime I get hired or even get a call from a train crash victim, my very first call is to Nathan’s firm. Nathan’s knowledge and experience in handling and trying cases against these litigation savvy railroad companies gives me the confidence to know that the clients and cases I refer to him are getting the best of the best.

James Perrin Lubbock, Texas

I have had the opportunity to work as co-counsel with Nathan on several railroad crossing accidents cases. In each case, Nathan always possessed an incredible knowledge of the law and the facts, possessed a great talent for aggressive - strategic legal planning and trial tactics while, at the same time, displaying great skill as an effective negotiator. I would recommend him to anyone without hesitation.

Scott McCluen Harriman, Tennessee

Nathan Karlin has my strongest endorsement in the field of railroad crossing cases and personal injury law. I had the pleasure of working with Nathan in a complex railroad personal injury case. I was impressed by Nathan’s knowledge, his work ethic, and his dedication to the client. I look forward to working with Nathan on future injury matters. I am also aware firsthand that he has obtained excellent trial and settlement results in numerous cases involving members of the public harmed by railroad companies.

Joseph M. Miller Mandeville, Louisiana

Nathan is a warrior fighting the railroads. As a fellow personal injury lawyer, I have constantly been impressed with his depth of knowledge and his capabilities from case to case. I’d take him into battle with me any day against the biggest railroads and insurance companies on the planet.

Jon C. Clark Austin, Texas

Bob Pottroff has fought for the victims of the railroads’ callous disregard for safety more than any other attorney that I know. I should know because I am currently Chair-elect of the Railroad Section of ATLA.

Robert Schuetze Boulder, Colorado

Mr. Pottroff has shaken the rail industry to its very roots. Settlements are now more common as a result of the way he has exposed the industry’s wrongdoing.

Mike Easley Arkansas

Bob Pottroff’s work in railroad safety law is unmatched and he has been the source of great advice and phenomenal creativity.

Roger Brown Jefferson City, Missouri

In addition to his substantive contributions to railroad grade crossing safety, I have personally observed his untiring efforts and contributions to improving the integrity of the legal system.

Elizabeth Hardy Lake Charles, Louisiana

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8