(Alden, Minnesota – April 6, 2015)
A confusing rail/county road intersection leading past, as well as into, an anhydrous ammonia tank farm facility near Alden, MN, caused anxious moments Monday afternoon at about 3:30 P.M., CDT when a 59-year-old, as yet unidentified by name, northbound semi-trailer truck driver, was struck by a Canadian Pacific owned train at the dangerous, unguarded double-track crossing of Freeborn County Road 61 (also called 620th Avenue).
The train struck the tank trailer – which was, most fortunately, empty of the hazardous contents, having just left the facility where it had unloaded its highly-volatile anhydrous ammonia lading – and turned it onto its side, but did not puncture the tank (empty vehicles, trailers or rail cars used to haul hazardous loads are often nearly as dangerous as a loaded container due to residue and gasses therein).
The crossing is of both the railroad’s main line as well as a service track where rail cars of similar hazardous materials are switched into and out of the tank farm, and forms a triangular approach from the position where the trucker crossed and the train, one of a daily pair of CP/DM&E freights that cross there at a top allowable speed of 40 mph, emerged.
It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident would not have happened. Both Canadian Pacific and Operation Lifesaver know that lights and gates are the most effective type of protection at railroad crossings. Studies that have been conducted over fifty years ago confirm that lights and gates offer the ability to drastically reduce the number of vehicle/train accidents by as much as 96%.