Railroad Safety Week an Educational Opportunity for Marshfield Residents

Hosted by Operation Lifesaver, Inc (OLI) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation, and celebrated locally by Marshfield Police Department, September 24-30 is “Rail Safety Week.”

With the ongoing mission of reducing collisions, fatalities, and injuries at highway-rail crossings, and preventing trespassing on or near railroad tracks, the goal of Rail Safety Week is to raise awareness across the United States of the need for rail safety education and empower the general public to keep themselves safe near highway-rail grade crossings and railroad rights-of-way.

“Historically, we’ve worked with CN railway to enforce the message that it’s dangerous to be on or near the tracks,” said Police Chief Rick Gramza. “Not only is an individual trespassing when they are on railroad property, there are often life altering consequences with not being attentive and alert when crossing the tracks.”

With an average of 40 trains passing through the city of Marshfield each day, it’s important for both pedestrians and vehicles to exercise safe railroad practices.

“We’ve seen kids walking along the tracks to get from Point A to Point B,” said Gramza. “We’ve seen adults crossing the tracks at areas that aren’t crossings, as a shortcut to get where they are going.”

Not only is crossing at an unapproved crossing dangerous, it is illegal.

“Whenever you’re crossing the railroad tracks at an unapproved crossings, you are actually trespassing on railroad property,” said Gramza.

CN, which has its own police force, visits Marshfield regularly to inspect the tracks for issues, such as trespasser vandalism, that might put trains and their surroundings in danger. However, it’s important for local law enforcement and citizens to also be aware and alert of their surroundings, and to report any concerns to local law enforcement.

Drivers are also cautioned to be vigilant when traveling over or near railroad tracks.

“We see people parking or stopping for a red light too close to the tracks, where the arms can come down on them and where they can potentially be hit by the train,” said Gramza, adding that the City of Marshfield Engineer, Tom Turchi, has now programmed all intersections that are near railroad tracks to include a “clearing green” light.

This means that traffic travelling across the tracks has a green light, even though the railroad arms might be down, and was implemented as a way to ensure cars caught on the tracks are able to safely continue into the intersection.

PD photo. Vehicle incorrectly stopped in front of tracks.

“You’ll often see that the traffic across the tracks are green, and that’s to make sure no one is stopped on or near the tracks,” said Gramza. “Since this was done, we haven’t had any cars hit.”

With a sad history of vehicle and pedestrian injuries and deaths at railroad crossings, Rail Safety Week is an important opportunity to educate the public on how to prevent railroad-related tragedy.

“We step up enforcement around the tracks and use this week as an opportunity to educate and inform on the laws regarding safe crossing of the tracks and pedestrian safety around the tracks,” said Gramza. “We want people to have a respect for trains. They are often moving faster than you anticipate and are closer than you anticipate.”

Though the time hindrance can be annoying, Gramza urges both pedestrians and drivers to be patient and not try to beat the train.

“Historically we’ve had cars that have tried to beat the train,” said Gramza. “There was a pedestrian killed when he tried to beat the train. He slipped on ice and couldn’t get back up in time.”

Most of all, Gramza encourages everyone to be alert near railroad tracks, practice safe crossing at approved locations, and keep a safe distance away when parked near the tracks.

“When stopping at a railroad crossing, stop at the line plenty of distance from the train,” said Gramza. “Pedestrians should cross only at approved crossings.”

This advice applies both within City limits and outside of town, where the crossings are actually more dangerous.

“Within probably a ten-fifteen mile radius, there are crossings that are more dangerous than there are in the City,” said Gramza. “Be alert, because with windows up and radio on, you might not hear or see a train coming until it’s too late.”

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