Claremore Daily Progress

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May 8, 2014

Trains, Trains and more Trains

Council discusses BNSF response to stoppages

CLAREMORE —

Claremore City Manager Jim Thomas and Police Chief Stan Brown led a discussion Monday among the city council about recent issues with blocked railroad crossings.
From March 20 to April 26, the Claremore Police Department Dispatch Center documented a total of 13 crossing blockages caused specifically by a stopped train.
The delays have been as short as 20 minutes and as long as two hours and 40 minutes on April 29, according to the police department, causing not just headaches for stuck motorists, but also public safety issues for police, fire and ambulances.
“We received a letter (from BNSF Railway) acknowledging the chief’s calls, my calls, the public’s calls,” Thomas said. “I’m not sure they’re just trying to pacify us. We’ve still got a problem.”
In the letter, BNSF Public Affairs Director Joseph Faust said the railroad has taken steps to improve its operations in Claremore.
“...the General Manager for our Springfield Division has issued a mandatory directive to all crews with operation instructions to ensure trains can proceed prior to entering the Lowry Road crossing,” Faust said. “In the event that a train must occupy the crossing and cannot continue movement, the train will be separated at the crossing to enable vehicle traffic to pass through.
“In addition, BNSF will have an operating manager physically in Claremore once a week to observe whether the directive is being followed,” the letter continues.
Thomas expressed doubt that the new protocols laid out in the letter would resolve the issues.
“I don’t see this as a long-term solution. I guess only time will tell,” he said. “Several weeks ago, we had gridlock in the city. We had two railroads stopped for hours at a time. There is not a lot of communication between BNSF and UP (Union Pacific).”
Thomas added that there is more train traffic than ever before, and since it’s at capacity, if there is work being done at a crossing, the whole system gets backed up.

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