Kent’s downtown railroad crossings need to be fixed…now!
Letter to the Editor by Barb Smith, Executive Director of Kent Downtown Partnership
Is there anything more frustrating than being stuck at a train crossing when there are no trains? Very few things in my book are.
Kent Downtown Partnership’s (KDP) office is located one-half block from the train crossing on Gowe Street, west of the tracks, a few feet away from Wild Wheat Bakery & Café. Therefore, we are very aware when the train crossing arms come down and fail to go back up.
Off and on we have had problems with the crossing arms getting stuck in the down position but nothing like it has been last week and this week. We have proactive Board members and they have been in constant contact with the City of Kent, to figure out what can be done.
NOTE: Sometimes the crossing arms are not down on train crossings, a block or two away. Therefore, do not block the intersections, as you may be able to turn down the street and get to the open crossings. Most importantly, be safe.
We understand that the railroad companies, like BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway) have very strict federal rules they have to follow for safety, and cities don’t have regulatory authority over railroads or operational control over railroad crossings. For one, it is illegal for our own police, let alone a civilian, to raise the crossing arms to allow traffic to flow through until the railroad figures out why the crossing arms are stuck in the down position. This week, people waited for one hour and forty+ minutes for the crossing arms to rise. That is TOO LONG to figure out what the problem is.
The city has asked KDP to help notify city communications staff when we see that the crossing arms are once again, stuck in the down position so the city can promptly contact BNSF, FRA, and advise the public via social media. We did this on Thursday.
The city has also tried sending police officers out to direct people to other intersections where the crossing arms are not stuck in a down position so that traffic can get through the crossing safely. The city found this didn’t work well for a number of reasons, especially a high volume of higher priority calls.
What do we do now? The KDP Board suggests that our businesses try to estimate what money they have lost in revenue when the crossing arms are stuck in the down position. Submit your comments to the KDP office. [email protected] It would be very helpful to have your comments in writing so that we can share these with BNSF, the FRA, and the City of Kent. It is hard to determine what you have lost if a current customer can’t get to you and because of the crossing arms being stuck in the down position so frequently; they may have become so frustrated they won’t return.
I had a guest from out of town this week and wanted to take her to Sapoche’ Vietnamese Kitchen on the east side of Meeker. I wouldn’t do it for fear we would be stuck on that side and we both had appointments immediately after lunch, so we went elsewhere. They lost our business and I am sure this is happening to other businesses too.
We know the city is working hard putting pressure on BNSF to “fix the problem, now.” Feel free to call BNSF at 800-832-5452 and complain. Maybe we should consider calling the Federal Railroad Administration too at 800-724-5998. With enough calls, maybe they can help move BNSF along faster to fix the problem before they ruin our downtown commerce. If you want to help solve this problem, please share your comments, in writing, so that we can share these with BNSF, the FRA, the city, etc. If we work on this together, we have a better chance of helping BNSF solve their problem.
Barbara Smith, Exec. Director, KDP