(Dodge Center, Minnesota – September 20, 2014)
A local man, Steven L. Johnson, 56, was killed early Saturday evening just before 8:00 P.M. when he attempted to drive his Chevrolet Monte Carlo across the dangerous and unguarded crossing of 4th Avenue Southeast and Canadian Pacific railroad tracks in the east part of Dodge Center, MN. He was struck by a CPR freight train he probably never saw due to heavy tree foliage partially obscuring the crossing’s approach sight distance, especially for southbound auto traffic and westbound trains, which were the exact circumstances of the accident.
Passenger Adam Grunklee, 27, of Owatonna, MN escaped physically, but far from mentally, unscathed from the tragic collision, which occurred at a crossing which completely lacks any form of active crossing protection such as flashing lights, bells and crossing gates which can provide warning to motorists of the four daily trains which cross there daily at a maximum allowable speed of 40 mph.
It is virtually certain that if equipped with lights and gates this accident would not have happened. Both Canadian Pacific and Operation Lifesaver all know 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%
According to Federal Railroad Administration documents, Saturday’s tragedy was the third accident, but first fatality, to occur at that railroad/highway intersection.
The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office was in the process of investigating the crash.