Many railroad crossings lack safety features

Some crossings only have stop or yield signs

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Rail service in the Northeast corridor is set to expand and federal railroad officials are blitzing the Pioneer Valley with safety information. But there are plenty of crossings that lack modern safety equipment.

In Westfield where the tracks cross Plainfield Road near the Savage Arms manufacturing facility, there are no flashing lights, no gate, not even a stop sign. Just a yield. People told us the crossing at Plainfield Road is a heavy traffic area, especially when the area’s businesses close.

It didn’t take long before 22News cameras caught drivers who didn’t slow down at all or bother looking, even if they were just feet away from an oncoming Pioneer Valley Railroad engine.

“I myself saw one where the locomotive was probably 40 feet from the crossing blowing his whistle and doing all the proper safety procedures,” Richard Towle of the Federal Railroad Association told 22News. “And the car just shot right across in front of him.”

Plainfield Road isn’t the only problem spot in Westfield. Another problem crossing is on Lockhouse Road. There are two sets of tracks but only one of them has lights and neither of them have gates.

“There’s no gates, there’s no lights,” Mary Riemenschneider explained. “So for me, a physical reminder is that gate coming down. ‘You know? okay. Don’t go, it’s really not safe.’ But without that here people rely on their own judgment.”

Lawmakers like State Senator Don Humason are pushing for safety upgrades. “We believe that there is federal money we can access. We believe that there are grants that we might be able to find. But the goal obviously is to make these crossing safe for the trains, but especially for the motorists that go back and forth every day.”

The crossing on Birnie Road in Longmeadow, which is where Longmeadow DPW driver Warren Cowles was killed, only has stop signs on either end. The railroad crossing at Springdale Road in Westfield doesn’t even have that- it has yield signs.