FOX43 Finds Out: Railroad crossing controversy

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YORK, Pa -- When you approach a railroad crossing, you expect the gates to come down and the signals to light up if a train is coming.

What happens when that isn't the case?

FOX43 Finds Out.

Linda Valenzuela of York had an interesting point of view at railroad crossing at the intersection of North Belvidere Avenue and Company Street in the city.

"Since I was there, I decided to take a video because we do have a lot of kids around here so the fact that there was no indication that there was, it just kind of popped up, was kind of scary," said Valenzuela.

She was in the car with her kids and says she luckily looked both ways before going over the railroad tracks when a train came through.

The gates never came down and the warning signals never lit up.

Valenzuela said, "It was barely coming, so if I wouldn't have really looked, I would have been in the middle of that."

That railroad crossing is operated by the York Railway Company.

A company spokesperson says the railway company was notified by York County Control on June 5th that the crossing warning devices were malfunctioning.

After that, the spokesperson says the company followed Federal Railroad Administration protocol and the crossing was manually protected with a flag person, which is usually the conductor stopping the train, flagging the crossing, and then going back to the train.

Adding quote "It's possible that a motorist arrived at the crossing while the conductor was lining the switch, but no trains entered the crossing without flag protection"

That means this video might not show the whole story because it begins after train cars are already passing through.

However, Valenzuela insists she never saw anyone waving a flag prior to the train coming through the intersection.

"It's a very busy street, so for something like that not to be working, it's very serious."

Both York Railway Company and Valenzuela say the issue was fixed the next day.

The railroad company spokes person said they didn't know what caused the gate and signal to malfunction that day and added that it's not unusual for train crews to flag crossings.

Even so Valenzuela says that answer is not enough.

"It's not the first time, so what's to stop it from happening again?"

She claims there have been numerous issues with that crossing with the gates not going down or sometimes not going back up.

"Get it fixed because we have too many people coming by and my main concerned is the kids and I've got 5 kids of my own. There's schools around here and too many kids, so if something happens it will be their responsibly," said Valenzuela.

FOX43 asked York Railway Company if they had any other records of that railroad crossing gate malfunctioning and we never got an answer.

There are 6,000 railroad crossings in the commonwealth, many of which fall under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Utility Commission.

That includes the one at North Belvidere Avenue and Company Street in York.

When FOX43 called the PUC about the June incident,  it was the first time they heard about this issue at this specific railroad crossing.

However, the PUC spokesperson said  no formal complaint has been filed about that crossing.

The last complaint filed against York Railway Company was 6 years ago and that wasn't even at the same crossing.

If you see something is wrong with a railroad crossing and believe it's a safety hazard here's a breakdown of who to contact for what:

The PUC has jurisdiction over public railroad crossings and assigns maintenance responsibility to a crossing.

It is usually the railroad company's phone number listed under the emergency contact at a crossing, this is your first line of contact.

It is up to the railroad companies to conduct monthly inspections of the signal systems.

If you believe this is a safety issue at a crossing, you can file a formal complaint with the PUC either by phone, email or letter.

The rail companies have to report problems to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Then the FRA handles enforcement if something is mishandled.

York Railway Company says last year there were 57 railroad crossing collisions in Pennsylvania and 4 people died.

If you want more information on how you can get involved with rail safety education, you can real about operation livesaver.

If you have a story you want me to look into FOX43 wants to find out.

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