A Region 8 Railroad Crossing in Question

April 30, 2004 -- Posted 6:15 CDT

Waldenburg, AR -- A man injured in an 18 wheeler collision yesterday in Waldenburg with a rail grinder, which is a maintenance vehicle, is said to be doing better, but still not well.

A spokesperson with Carpenter Fish Farms, the trucking company involved in the accident, tells K-8 news the driver is still in a Memphis hospital in intensive care. Meanwhile, the Union Pacific public affairs office has received an incident report and expects this situation to be further investigated.

Union Pacific confirms at approximately 7:53 on Thursday morning, a rail grinder collided with an 18 wheeler leaving the vehicle's driver hospitalized, but witnesses have more to say than what's documented on the Union Pacific incident report.

Vikk Johnson was inside a T-Stop across the street when the accident happened.

"The truck came to a stop pretty quick, we just stood there and watched the truck being dragged down the tracks, the arms did not come down," said Johnson.

Vikk says the women she was standing with noticed that as well, and for some who did not witness the wreck, they question the safety on these rails.

"I don't really think it's safe at all, they really need to put an overpass over here," said one resident.

"It's unsafe...a lot of wrecks happen because of that," said another resident.

According to regulations set by the Railroad Administration, lights and crossing arms are supposed to activate at least 20 seconds before the train crosses.

KAIT monitored this particular crossing area and found that a train crossed at 33 seconds, meeting requirements.

But despite the accuracy of this one isolated incident, Waldenburg Mayor William Wood says this is still the most dangerous intersection in Northeast Arkansas.

"When a truck pulls up and stops a lot of times the traffic boggs him down and he can't get off from the track so it's very dangerous," said Wood.

Wood says Thursday's crash could have been more devastating had it been a truck carrying hazardous materials.

"We're trying to get a grant to get fire protection," said Wood.

But for those who drive through there everyday, they believe there's not too much more that can be done.

"I don't see how they can make it any safer without someone out there directing traffic, said Weiner resident Joe Spitzer.

Union Pacific officials say signal inspectors routinely inspect crossing areas, but if you do notice a malfunction in your area, they urge you to call their 24 hour hotline at 1-800 848-8715.