CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - The highway department called a meeting at a deadly railroad crossing in Region 8 on Wednesday to make upgrades.
"Obviously we are here today because of a recent fatal crash," Steve Weston, an Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department representative said.
After a crash left an elderly couple dead at the Paul's Switch crossing outside of Bono, the railroad crossing's hazard rating spiked.
"The first of July the rating was 4.029 after the crash it became 8.4, which is why we are out here today, hoping to see what we can do to make this crossing safe," Weston said.
Others attended the meeting including members from the railroad company and locals expressing their concerns.
"I'm curious to know why it took the death of my mother-in-law and her husband to get them to finally increase this hazard rating here," Sara Walker, a local said.
Walker, like many others, including farmers at the meeting Wednesday morning, crosses the track at the deadly crossing daily.
Weston said the highway department creates a list of crossings based on hazard ratings and picks the top 30 to 40 in need to stage a diagnostic team visit.
Before Walker's mother-in-law was killed in the crash, at the beginning of July, the hazard rating was too low to be on the list for a team visit.
"We have a recommendation for this crossing with the railroad's agreement," Weston said. "It would be to install lights and gates here, and go all the way to lights and gates, not worry about flashing lights." "That should fix the problem."
Weston said that project would take about two years because of the several steps it takes to complete the project and the lengthy process to receive funding from the Federal Highway Administration.
"I'm disappointed in the fact that it's going to take two years to put gates and lights up," Walker said. "I understand they have protocols to go through, but that seems like an extensive amount of time for a deadly railroad crossing."
Walker believes there needs to be a quicker fix, and on Wednesday, the highway department heard the cries.
"We are going to coordinate together with the railroad company to see if there's something we can do to remove the brush and trees down here further away from the road way in the south west quadrant," Weston said.
The southwest quadrant of the Paul's Switch crossing is covered with trees and brush. Walker said she believes that played a role in her mother-in-law's death.
"I think this will help," she said. "I never thought about it but when these farmers out here talked about them pulling their equipment across here, the visibility is so low in that corner, once they're across this, it's too late. I think that too played a part in the death of my mother-in-law."
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