(Canyon, Texas – September 29, 2012)
The Fourth Street crossing of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks where 21-year-old West Texas A&M University cheerleader Shelbi McClure died early Tuesday morning in a collision with a BNSF freight train was one of two Canyon, TX crossings scheduled to receive safety improvements in order to become a “Quiet Zone” according to Canyon City Manager Randy Criswell.
Both Fourth and Fifteenth Streets were to be fitted with island-style concrete median barriers which would make swerving around lowered crossing gates impossible. It is alleged that the victim did so before she was hit by a BNSF train traveling at 40 mph, but according to statements made in regard to the accident, the gates were in the process of lowering when she drove under them and was hit. However, for a circuit designed to accommodate 70 mph trains, which is the top speed allowed through Canyon, would mean a train at almost half that speed would deploy the gates fully far sooner than the train’s arrival at the crossing, regardless of speed sensors and extended circuitry, and thus the medians would not have been factors.
The City Manager said the creation of the safety improvements which would be necessary to qualify the Canyon corridor as a “Quiet Zone” had been in the works for months, and was driven by “dozens, if not hundreds, of complaints” about the whistles blown by the 80 to 100 BNSF trains passing through Canyon on a daily basis.
“Those who live along the tracks and typically those who live north of the tracks hate the train whistles,” explained Criswell, “and they’re the ones that called me.”