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Railroad exec: Richland crossing will have new guards eventually

RICHLAND, Wash. — The guard rails and flashing lights you normally see at a railroad crossing have been pretty quiet at one Richland intersection.

Railroad officials said earlier this month a drunk driver smashed into the Richland railroad crossing guard on Van Giesen Street near the Bypass Highway, an extremely busy intersection.

Tri-City Railroad Executive Vice President Lisa Anderson said the entire middle section of the crossing was taken out.

"It's considerable damage, it's not just one of the gate-arms that goes up and down."

Khris Olsen of West Richland called Action News because he says those gates need to get back to work. He said there are no lights warning drivers and no arms blocking the roadway.

"An unprotected railroad crossing is always a concern because people could be crossing or walking there and could potentially be hit by a train."

Anderson said the railroad is taking precautions to keep people safe by having a conductor block traffic while the train slowly passes.

"There's a painted line on the road. You should stay back from that painted line. People try to inch their way up as close as they can get to the train."

Trooper Chris Thorson from Washington State Patrol said it should work if people follow the rules.

"Please pay attention to them because they're doing it for a purpose. So they can get the train through the intersection."

But Olsen said current precautions aren't enough and stoplights at the nearby intersection need to be adjusted until the guard rails are fixed.

"They were still coming across and blocking the highway. Cars in the middle of the intersection during rush hour. Luckily there were no accidents or anything like that."

Anderson said they've ordered the replacement parts but has no idea when they'll arrive.

"Unfortunately due to the extent of the damage, it's going to be weeks."

Until then, she said drivers need to pack their patience.

"We can't stress enough that whatever it is that you have to do, wherever it is that you need to get to, that it can't be more important than just calming down and waiting for the appropriate time to cross."

Action News contacted Tri-City Railroad Company shortly before air and they told us they're looking into how the stop-lights on Van Giesen Street sync with passing trains.

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