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Railroad crossing arms close on Petaluma couple's car at green light

Another Steve Atnip find:


By Lori A. Carter

“Why did my traffic signal turn green just as the train signal flashed red and the arm came down?” Barbara Simpson asked. “This could have been a very bad accident.”

The issue highlights safety concerns as rail service resumes along the Sonoma-Marin commute rail line. Freight trains have been running on the rail tracks through Sonoma County for about six months, surprising some motorists who have been driving over the idle tracks for a decade without a thought of an encounter with a train. Commuter rail service is planned to start in 2016.

But the Simpsons said the problem wasn't a surprise train, it was that the traffic signal wasn't synchronized with the rail crossing-arm signal, literally sending mixed messages to motorists.

The couple was on D Street, planning to head straight across Lakeville Street, where the SMART railroad tracks run through the intersection parallel to Lakeville.

Barbara Simpson said their car was first in line at a red light and she stepped on the accelerator as the signal turned green.

“I hit the gas to go and the train signal starts flashing red and the arm comes down at the same time the light turns green — on my new car,” she said.

Read the rest of the article here.

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I just graduated drivers ed a couple months ago. In the law, it says spicificly to look both ways before you cross train tracks, whether or not you have a green light. It dates back before the days of lights and gates when it was dirt roads, flagmen, nad crossbucks.
Use commen sense. It's that simple.
Also don't let drivers intimidate you. Is not that hard, to be honest. Just relax.

From my experience, traffic lights turn green whenever crossing activate to clear the tracks of any cars that may be fouling the tracks, at least that's how it is in my territory.

It can go both ways; I've seen lights turn red with crossings, and green. Just depends on railroad, and who owns the lights I guess.

All I can say is with all the track work happen around, I'm guessing the crossing gates are not track wired right at this time so when the train hits the crossing gate circuit it's not time right, so the gates drop down onto the cars driving by when they have green lights to go?

  At that particular crossing coming down D street from West to East the intersection is West of the tracks.  Autos are not to stop on the tracks or under the arms of the gates.  On the East side of the tracks there is not room for an auto to squeeze in between the rails and Lakeville.  This gal was evidently stopped underneath the crossing arms (not too smart).  Furthermore,....the intersection should be all red when a train approaches, except for a flashing yellow for eastbound on D on the East side of Lakeville.  A sign on D would be large letters....DO NOT STOP ON TRACKS....and maybe the traffic signal should be placed in front of the West facing gates

What do you do at a blinking Red light, you stop. A railroad bilinking crossing lite is a stop light. If you watch the crossing lights and arms you will find that the lights come on first, then the gate arm comes down.


You are right the green traffic light is to help clear the tracks. As long as you are clear of the gate you should not follow the green light, but follow the blinking red light.


The crossing signals are set in a mode that the train has to get really close to the street before the signals activate. Because of this the trains have to stop before every crossing in the SMART work area. The train can not blow its horn untill the gates come down. This has slowed the train down considerably




 Better yet.......Put a larger plow on the front end of the lead locomotive.


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