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Home News-Telegram News Joint effort improves safety at rural railroad crossings in Hopkins County

Joint effort improves safety at rural railroad crossings in Hopkins County

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Two railroad crossing gates and some flashing red lights and bells may not mean much to a lot of people, but it could be a lifesaver in small communities like Pickton.

That’s why Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap invited representatives of the Texas Department of Transportation and Kansas City Southern Railways to the new automated crossing gate installed near the intersections of County Roads 2388 and 2389.

The project to install Crossing #331585R was a joint effort between officials with the state highway department, the railway and Hopkins County, MiIllsap said.

“We’re here to recognize that we’ve got these lighted gates here in Pickton at a dangerous crossing,” Millsap said. “There have been people that have actually been killed right here on this spot where we stand.”

At least five people have died in approximately 25 collisions between passenger vehicles and trains on local railroad tracks in the last 15 years. That includes Price Minter, 59, a Pickton resident who died in a collision at the intersection where the crossing arms and flashing lights were just installed. He was crossing the Pickton intersection on Aug. 16, 2003, when a train slammed into the driver’s side of his pickup. The locomotive pushed the pickup about one-quarter of a mile down the track before coming to a stop. Minter was dead by the time the first person could reach him.

“We want to remember those people, and by having these safety features — these arms and lights — it’s going to benefit the people of Hopkins County,” Millsap said.

Minter’s widow, Kay Minter-Tomlin, was on hand for the event Tuesday morning.

“I just appreciate that it is here at this time,” she said.

The new crossing gate is on a busy road, one that Precinct 2 Commissioner Burke Bullock said is important to the community but was destined to be closed without the added safety features.

“This road is the center of Pickton,” Bullock said. “You have the community center, two churches and the post office right off of these streets here. If this had been closed and forgotten, it would have had a devastating effect on this community.”

Millsap said that speed of the KCS trains is picking up to at least 40 miles per hour, and could reach up to 60 mph in some cases, making the safety equipment even more important.

“There’s a lot of traffic that comes through here — there’s as much traffic that comes down this county road as there is the Farm to Market on the other end,” Bullock said, referring to the the site where the railroad tracks intersect with FM  269 about 100 yards to the east, and where another crossing gate had previously been installed.

Millsap said there have been six crossing gates installed on other intersections east of Sulphur Springs, and officials are looking to install more.

“We’re looking at others being installed in the county, mainly in the Cumby to Sulphur Springs area,” the county judge said. “They’ve installed four in Como, so we’ve just been real pleased we’ve been able to do this.”

Craig Miser, TxDoT’s area engineer, said he was “proud” of the cooperative working spirit displayed by the different groups.

We’re proud to be a part of all these safety venues we have available to us, and this is just one of many,” he said. “I appreciate our working relationship with the community and the county to accomplish all this work.”

Jerry Duncan with Kansas City Southern Railways said the railroad company is always looking to improve safety.

“KCS is not the largest railroad, but we’re becoming the second-largest railroad, and their main goal is safety,” he said. “Yes, they’re going to run trains and do it to make money, but the number one thing is safety.

“And if anybody in the community finds anything that’s unsafe,  report it, and we’ll try to get it repaired of fixed, or we’ll work with the proper officials we need to to make the railroad more safe, because that is our number one goal.”

 

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