Speeding trains heading for southern Illinois

Speeding trains heading for southern Illinois
By: Arnold Wyrick
MARION, Ill. - If you're one of those drivers who just hates to sit and wait for a train to pass, well your wait is going to get a whole lot shorter in the coming days.  That's because Union Pacific Railroad is going to be increasing the speed of their trains rolling through Franklin and Williamson county towns from 15 mph up to 49 mph.
"And we want the drivers on Route 13 especially to know that these are going to be increasing.  A lot of times that stop light will catch traffic and they'll back-up.  And people are stopping on the tracks and that's not good," says Senior Special Agent John Schumacher with Union Pacific Railroad.
In order for the public to get a birds eye view of what it's like to drive a train through a town at those speeds folks were invited to ride along on a Union Pacific train from Johnston City to Spillertown on Tuesday.
"It's a two fold opportunity.  On one hand it gives them a chance to see what it takes to operate a train.  And on the other side it let's them see that a train can do nothing to avoid a collision on the tracks.  If something or someone is on the train tracks, the train can't stop.  And they can't swerve to miss whatever is in their way," says John Simpson Manager of Public Safety for Union Pacific Railroad.
For those drivers who just can't wait and decide to cross the tracks anyway as a train approaches, here's a statistic that just might change your mind.

You're 20 times more likely to die in a crash with a train than you are to die in an automobile crash. "The worst area in the country for crossing collisions is in the State of Texas.  But, Illinois is number two in the whole country," Schumacher said.

"And we're writing tickets today to let people know that we're serious about enforcing the laws at railroad crossings.  Each person ticketed for driving through, or around the signals as a train approaches is looking at a $250.00 fine and or 50 hours of community service," Schumacher said.

Along with the increased speeds of the trains, comes much longer stopping distances. "At 50 mph it'll take almost a mile to stop a 100-car freight train.  At the current 15 mph they can stop in about half-a-mile."

Public Safety Manager Simpson has one last tid-bit for thought, for those drivers who aren't, or choose not to pay attention when crossing railroad tracks. "We would like the motorist to know, if they would take the time to look for a train and listen for a train before they cross the tracks, they should live to cross those tracks again another day."