In lightly populated communities, exceptionally deadly railroad crossings are not uncommon. Installing and properly maintaining lights and gates at a railroad crossing costs money and time. In sparsely populated regions, unguarded crossings are frequently left unguarded by the simple (and perhaps slightly backwards) logic that very little traffic does not sufficiently warrant the protective power of equipment. There are cases, for example, of towns desperately pleading with railroad companies to help them fund protective equipment at crossings which have proven deadly, and the railroad companies responding in turn with a rather impolite “no”. The frequency with which this occurs is alarming, given the nature of the request – a plead for public safety and for protecting lives.
The current situation in Audrain County, Missouri is slightly more offensive, however. County employees – from county commissioners to engineers – are worked up over a railroad crossing at Audrain County Road 443. A mounting list of problems, including unmaintained tracks, obstructions, and an eroding support system which county engineers suspect is rapidly deteriorating due to heavy rains. There is no doubt: eventually, this will result in an accident, be it a train/car collision or a devastating derailment.
And yet, in spite of the mounting problems, Kansas City Southern has not moved to fix the problems. Worse, they won’t let the county themselves maintain the tracks. They claim (rightfully) that it is their tracks and (rightfully) that it is their job to maintain it. We agree with KC Southern on this one. It is their responsibility. Why, then, has the county been complaining for 4 years with no progress? Is KC Southern waiting for a disaster? Are they attempting to see how close to a disaster they can get before they cave? Railroad companies such as KC Southern tend to blame railroad crossing accidents on the drivers playing chicken with death as they try to beat the train. If they are really so averse to flirting with disaster, it would be nice to see them lead by example.