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Police step up rail crossing enforcement
February 24, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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The 10th Street railroad crossing in Gering has seen a number of accidents, with the most recent fatality occurring on Jan. 11, 2012, when Gering resident Vera Clary’s car was struck by a Union Pacific coal train.

Within the past few years, there have been two fatalities at Gering’s U St. railroad crossing, so the police department is stepping up its traffic enforcement.

“We’ve also had an attempted suicide at that crossing,” said Capt. Jason Rogers of the Gering Police Department. “Since January 2008, we’ve had 13 near crashes at railroad crossings in Gering. That might not seem like a big number for the volume of traffic that goes through there, but it’s enough that it raises some eyebrows.”

Rogers said that as time permits, officers are monitoring the rail crossings as often as possible, watching for violations.

Rogers added the enforcement action was prompted by the department’s afternoon shift supervisor, who has been working with Union Pacific Railroad police. “When our department makes enforcement actions, we e-mail the information to the railroad. They have an extensive statewide database that lets them know the names of people who have been contacted. Repeat violators can be cited.”

Gering police began stronger enforcement just after Jan. 11, 2012, when 93-year-old Vera Clary was killed when her northbound vehicle was struck by a Union Pacific coal train at the 10th St. crossing.
“We’ve been working with Union Pacific police for the last couple of years,” Rogers said. “They regularly do railroad crossing enforcement checks. This latest crash just made the need more urgent.”

Gering police have already been contacted by Operation Lifesaver about bringing another public education presentation to the area. The group’s mission is to increase public awareness about the dangers around rail crossings, promote active enforcement of traffic laws and trespassing, and encourage continued engineering research to improve safety around rail crossings.

Rogers said the most common violation at rail crossings is when vehicles are stopped for a train. Once the train has cleared, vehicles go through the crossing before crossing arms have gone up completely and warning lights have stopped flashing.

“State law says drivers are supposed to wait for the crossing arms to go up and the lights to stop flashing before proceeding, he said. “People are going through early. If another train is coming in the other direction, the arms could come down again and hit a vehicle.”

Train traffic has increased dramatically in past years and is expected to continue increasing as more trains are needed to transport coal from increased production at Wyoming’s coal fields.
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