(Minneapolis, Minnesota – January 2, 2016)
An as-yet unidentified man who was struck by a Minneapolis Metropolitan Council Transit Blue Line light rail train died Monday evening at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis three hours after his motorized wheelchair was sitting too close to the railroad tracks and was hit near East 32nd Street just before 6:00 P.M., CST. Minneapolis Star-Tribune Writers Colleen Kelly, Tim Harlow and Paul Walsh called this “a disturbing trend” of accidents on the 11-mile transit line which experienced 13 accidents in 2015 and has suffered 108 since the downtown Minneapolis-to-Mall of America route opened in 2004.
The victim, who was said not to be alone, may have had difficulty in maneuvering his vehicle at the confusing crossing which traverses both the old Hiawatha Route double-tracked light rail line as well as the multi track Minnesota Commercial Railway crossing just beyond Hiawatha Avenue. Although there are active signals, sidewalks are not blocked by crossing gates, and street curbs create unusual sidewalk patterns and narrower rail/walk intersections. The 32nd Street East/Metro crossing and Blue Line station are “located near about seven group homes for individuals with disabilities,” according to another Star-Tribune, article, this one attributed to Beatrice Dupuy and Vince Tuss.
Heather Carson, who was identified as a resident of one of those group homes, told the S-T writers that she often has difficulty negotiating across the tracks in her own electric wheelchair, “Especially when there is fresh snow.”
The January 3 article also chronicled plans by Metro Transit to “inspect its signaling equipment and review safety procedures” in the wake of the recent tragedies that now have killed two and injured another pair of pedestrians who were either waiting to board trains or standing too close to the tracks. These included the death of bicyclist Jason McCormick, 29, the serious injury to Michael Klever, and the less serious injury to an unidentified woman, all three of which occurred at the 46th Street station within a few days last week.
“Over the next month, the agency plans to post new warning signs and posters at platforms and inside rail cars emphasizing the proper way for motorists and pedestrians to interact with trains,” said the Dupuy/Tuss story, which had contribution by co-author of the later article. “In the spring, it will continue work on a painting project started last year designed to steer pedestrians and bicyclists from areas deemed unsafe,” continued the writers.”
But the improvements will come too late for the victims of the past two weeks’ accidents.